In its 36th season, Music From Japan presented Festival 2011, a weekend of events in New York City’s Baruch Performing Arts Center, and a concert at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The programs introduced the worlds of Japanese song and flutes, showcasing the talents of leading exponents of both art forms through traditional and contemporary music. Among the pieces performed were two world premieres commissioned by Music From Japan. In New York the festival presented two programs: “Flutes from the East and the West,” which explored the relationship between these two great musical cultures from multiple perspectives, and “Song from the Spirit of Japan,” which celebrated the nation’s enduring song-setting tradition.
On February 12, 2011, Music From Japan presented Flutes from the East and West, a concert featuring Kohei Nishikawa and Elizabeth Brown performing new and traditional music for Western classical flute and three kinds of Japanese flute: the transverse nohkan and shinobue, as heard in Noh, kabuki theatre, and village festivals, and the shakuhachi, the vertical bamboo flute.
Japanese traditional works for shinobue and nohkan
Traditional: Sanya Sugagaki for shakuhachi and shinobue
Toshiro SARUYA: Stratus for nohkan (1995)
Keiki OKASAKA: Orphuse or Koi no Netori for flute solo (1986) – American premiere
Elizabeth BROWN: fragments for the moon for nohkan and shakuhachi (2010)
– world premiere of new MFJ commission
Yoshihisa TAIRA: Synchronie for flute duo (1986)
On February 13, the festival program was titled Song from the Spirit of Japan. This concert marked the first time Music From Japan programmed a singer as a featured artist; mezzo-soprano Keiko Aoyama is the undisputed “premier performer of Japanese composers’ songs” (Ongaku Gendai [Music Today], Jan 2010). With her regular pianist, Yoshio Tsukada, Aoyama sang settings of traditional folk songs, of songs with traditional Japanese sonorities, and of poems by the popular Hakushu Kitahara (1885-1942), the notable poet and novelist Haruo Sato (1892–1964), and the avant-garde Shoko Ema (1913-2000), one of the few female lyricists of the pre-war period.
Part 1: settings of poems by Shoko EMA
Ikuma DAN: Hana no Machi
Yoshinao NAKADA: Natsu no Omoide
Part 2: settings of poems by Hakusu KITAHARA
Kosaku YAMADA: Kono Michi (This Road)
Kosaku YAMADA: Machibouke
Sinpei NAKAYAMA: Sunayama (Sand Dunes)
Fumihiko FUKUI: Kanpyo
Ikuma DAN: From Three Kouta
– “Haru no Tori” (Birds of Spring)
Kikuko MASSUMOTO: From Six songs on poems by Hakushu Kitahara
– “Night” – American premiere
Part 3: Traditional folk songs and traditional themes
Norio FUKUSHI: Night of the Full Moon for woman’s voice and nohkan (2011)
– world premiere of new MFJ commission
Kan ISHII: Zui Zui Zukkorobashi
Kosaku YAMADA: “Lullaby” from Chugoku Area
Sumiko HIRAI: Rokkyu (lyrics by Hakushu KITAHARA)
Yoshitaka SAKAMOTO: Otemoyan
Michio MAMIYA: Nanbu Ushioiuta
Michio MAMIYA: Shakushi Uriuta (Song of a Rice Paddle Seller)
Part 4: Songs with traditional Japanese sonorities
Kiyoshi NOBUTOKI: Karasu (Crow)
Kikuko MASSUMOTO: From Three songs from Medieval Japan (lyrics: poems from ancient Japan)
Fumio HAYASAKA: “Uguisu” (Nightingale) from Four vocal solos on poems by Haruo Sato
Kunihiko HASHIMOTO: Mai (Dance) (lyrics by Sumako FUKAO)
On February 16, the festival artists travelled to Washington D.C. to perform a concert at the Smithsonian Institution. This concert featured highlights from both festival concerts, including both pieces commissioned by Music From Japan for Festival 2011 – Norio Fukushi’s Night of the Full Moon, and Elizabeth Brown’s fragments for the moon.
Featured artists included Keiko Aoyama: mezzo soprano, Elizabeth Brown: shakuhachi and flute, Kohei Nishikawa: nohkan, shinobue, and flute, and Yoshio Tsukada: piano.
Music from Japan Festival 2011 was made possible in part by public funds from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, for the fiscal year 2010, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the Japan Foundation.
Major funding for the project was provided by the Rohm Music Foundation, The Mitsubishi UFJ Trust Foundation for the Arts, Asahi Shimbun Foundation, The Kao Foundation for Arts and Sciences, Fuji Television Network, Inc., Nomura Foundation, and the Morimura Houmeikai Foundation. Music From Japan appreciates the cooperation of The Japan Federation of Composers, Inc., Japan Society for Contemporary Music, and all participating venues.