Music From Japan
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Kenny Endo Photo: Raymond Yuen

Kenny Endo
Photo: Raymond Yuen

Kenny Endo, taiko

One of today’s leading figures in percussion and rhythm, Kenny Endo is at the vanguard of the taiko genre, continuing to carve new territory in this Japanese style of drumming. A performer, composer, and teacher of taiko, he has received numerous awards and accolades, including very special recognition in Japan: he was the first foreigner to be honored with a “natori,” a stage name, in Japanese classical drumming. Endo was a featured artist on the PBS special Spirit of Taiko in 2005. He has performed for such musicians as the late Michael Jackson and Prince, opened for The Who, performed a duet with singer Bobby McFerrin, and is featured on the soundtracks for Kayo Hatta’s film Picture Bride, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and James Cameron’s Avatar. He had a day named for him – “Kenny Endo Day” – by the Mayor of Honolulu, and he was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for American Masterpieces. Endo is a consummate artist, blending Japanese taiko with rhythms influenced by his jazz background and by collaborations with musicians from around the world.

Kaoru Watanabe

Kaoru Watanabe

Kaoru Watanabe, fue and taiko

Kaoru Watanabe is a New York-based practitioner of various Japanese traverse bamboo fue or flutes and of the taiko drum, as well as the Western flute.  His music is best described as a blend of the folk and classical traditions of Japan with contemporary improvisational and experimental music. Watanabe has performed with such artists as jazz pianist Jason Moran and Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo. Born in St. Louis, MO to symphony musician parents, and graduating from the Manhattan School of Music with a BFA in jazz flute and saxophone performance, Watanabe moved to Sado Island, Japan in order to join the iconic taiko ensemble Kodo, with whom he toured in Japan, North America and Europe, performing in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Barbican and Kabukiza.  From 2005 to 2007, Watanabe served as one of Kodo’s artistic directors. His compositions can be heard on Kodo albums Mondo Head, Prism Rhythm and One Earth Tour Special on Sony Records. In late 2006, he left Kodo and returned to New York City to teach and continue performing in a diverse array of musical and artistic settings, including a collaboration with Alicia Hall Moran at the Whitney Museum, performing fue with singer Imani Uzuri and dancer Camille Brown at New York’s Summerstage, and creating a soundscape for an installation by ceramic and video artist Simone Leigh. Recent projects have taken him across the globe to such places as Mongolia, French Guiana, Argentina and the Caribbean and have received support from the Japan Foundation and Asian Cultural Council. Watanabe teaches workshops and master classes internationally, courses at Princeton and Wesleyan University, and regular classes at his own studio, the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center in Brooklyn. Watanabe’s fue are provided by master flute maker Ranjo.

Kumi Ogano Photo: Maria Fielding

Kumi Ogano
Photo: Maria Fielding

Kumi Ogano, piano

Kumi Ogano has earned universal acclaim as an authoritative performer of music by Japanese composers Toru Takemitsu and Akira Miyoshi. The New York Times praised her playing as “gracefully voiced, sensitively shaped, and richly emotional,” and The Asahi wrote, “Her rich musicality and technical virtuosity are simply amazing.” Her recordings of Toru Takemitsu Piano Works (Philips) and Akira Miyoshi Piano Works (EMS, Philips) were praised by critics around the world, including Telerama in France, The Asahi and Record Geijutsu in Japan, and High Performance Review and American Record Guide (US). Her other recordings include Mendelssohn Piano Works (EMS/Koch), Complete Works for Violin and Piano by Toru Takemitsu (Fontec) and the Disklavier recordings of Piano Works by Liszt and Rachmaninoff (Yamaha). Ogano graduated from Toho-Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo in 1978 and received an Artist’s Diploma with highest distinction from the Indiana University School of Music in 1982, studying with Gyorgy Sebok, James Tocco, Kiyoko Tanaka and Aiko Iguchi. She won first prize in the Rikskonsertene Competition in Oslo in 1982, bronze medal in the Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Budapest in 1986, and the Chopin Prize from The Frederic Chopin Society of Japan in 1988. Ogano has appeared with major orchestras in Japan and Europe, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Japan Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Japan, the Bergen Philharmonic, the Budapest Philharmonic, the Rubinstein Philharmonic and the Szczecin Philharmonic in Europe, with such conductors as Ivan Fischer, Jiri Belohlavek, Andras Ligeti, Stefan Marczyk, Karsten Anderson, Tadaaki Otaka and Michiyoshi Inoue. Ogano has performed in recitals and appeared frequently on radio and television throughout the world. Ogano resides in New York City and has been on the piano faculty at Connecticut College since 1994.

Fred Sherry Photo: Ben Esner

Fred Sherry
Photo: Ben Esner

Fred Sherry, cello

A pioneer and a visionary in the music world, Fred Sherry has introduced audiences on five continents and all 50 United States to the music of our time through his close association with today’s composers. Carter, Davidovsky, Mackey, Rakowski, Satoh, Wuorinen and Zorn have written concertos for him, and he has premiered solo and chamber works dedicated to him by Babbitt, Bermel, Foss, Knussen, Lieberson and Takemitsu, among others. Sherry was a founding member of Tashi and Speculum Musicae; he has been a member of the Group for Contemporary Music, of Berio’s Juilliard Ensemble and of the Galimir String Quartet; and he was a close collaborator with jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea. He has been an active performer with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since the 1970s and was its Artistic Director from 1988 to 1992. Sherry has been a soloist and “sideman” on hundreds of commercial and esoteric recordings. The Fred Sherry String Quartet recordings of the Schoenberg String Quartet Concerto and the String Quartets Nos. 3 and 4 were both nominated for a Grammy. Sherry is a member of the cello faculty of the Juilliard School, the Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. His book, 25 Bach Duets from the Cantatas, was published by Boosey & Hawkes in 2011. It will be followed by the long-awaited treatise on contemporary string techniques.



Tomiko Kohjiba

Tomiko Kohjiba

Tomiko Kohjiba, commissioned composer

Tomiko Kohjiba is an increasingly sought-after composer in the U.S. and Europe, as well as in her native Japan. Born in Hiroshima, she earned a graduate degree in composition from the Tokyo University of the Arts and went on to earn her post-graduate degree there. Early works include Introduction and Allegro for Orchestra; a quartet for two alto flutes, cello, and harpsichord; and a choral work, Kotobaasobi-Uta, which took first place at the Kanagawa Festival and was broadcast on Japanese radio in 1977. In 1979 Kohjiba composed Requiem Hiroshima, which she presented to her native city the following year. She later reworked the piece, and it went on to gain her worldwide recognition, being programmed by the European Community Orchestra at Leonard Bernstein’s suggestion and by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Seiji Ozawa in 1985. Kohjiba’s numerous subsequent commissions include The Transmigration of the Soul, which premiered at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival when she was Composer-in-Residence there in 1995. Her Pre-eroded Seven Profiles for piano and orchestra received the Bekku Award and the 16th Akutagawa Award for Music Composition in 2006. She currently serves as Professor of Music at the Tokyo College of Music.


Yoshio Hachimura (1938-1985) graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1961. His early compositions display the influence of the atonal Expressionism of the Second Viennese School. He established his original style – an assimilation of Webern, Boulez, Cage, jazz and Japanese traditional music – with One Hour at Every One Breath (1960), which won him a prize at the 1962 Rome International Competition. In 1967 he joined the faculty of the Toho Gakuen School of Music, becoming an assistant professor in 1984. He was also a lecturer at Tokyo University of the Arts. The colorful sonorities of Constellation (1969), performed to acclaim at the 1969 Japanisch-Deutsches Festival für Neue Musik, became one of the characteristics of his later style. In 1980 he won an ISCM prize for The Logic of Distraction (1975). Though Hachimura was not a prolific composer, each of his 20 finely wrought compositions bears a deep personal significance.

Akira Miyoshi, born in 1933, has continued the study of music throughout his life. He received a degree in French literature from the University of Tokyo, specializing in symbolist poetry and existentialism. While there, Miyoshi also studied composition with Raymond Gallois-Montbrun. In 1953 he won first place in the Music Competition of Japan with his Sonata for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano; this resulted in a grant that allowed him to go to the Paris Conservatory where he studied composition with Henri Dutilleux. Miyoshi won several Otaka Prizes for works including his Concerto for Orchestra and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. He also won the NHK prize for his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, as well as the Italia Prize and the Palme Academique in 1984. He received the 31st Suntory Music Award in 2000. The following year, Miyoshi was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. He is a former president of the Toho Gauken School of Music in Tokyo and has served as president of the Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall.

Jummei Suzuki, born in 1970 in Tokyo, obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tokyo University of the Arts, under the guidance of Teruyuki Noda, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ryôhei Hirose and Ichirô Nodaira. He moved to Paris in 1997 to continue his studies – in composition with Gérard Grisey and Marco Stroppa, in orchestration with Marc-André Dalbavie, and in analysis with Michaiël Levinas – at the Paris Conservatoire, with the assistance of the Japanese Government Overseas Program (1999-2001). There Suzuki obtained a premier prix in the graduate class of composition. He attended the course in Composition and Computer Music of IRCAM (2002-03) with Philippe Leroux. He has been awarded prizes and distinctions from the 64th Japan Music Competition, the 18th Japan Symphony Foundation Award, the International Gaudeamus Music Week ’99, and the 31st Bourges International Sound Arts and Electro Music Competition, among others. Since 2005, Suzuki has taught at Toho Gakuen School of Music and Graduate School of Music, Senzoku Gakuen College of music, Tokyo College of Music, and Tokyo University of the Arts, where he is currently associate professor. His works have been performed and broadcast by leading musicians and orchestras in Japan and around the world; in 2012 his commissioned work Time and Lily: from East to West for 4 players was premiered at Music From Japan.

Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) co-founded the Experimental Laboratory in 1951, out of which came his first two examples of musique concréte. Subsequent works from the 1950s and ‘60s earned him the Italian Prize (1958), two awards from UNESCO (including the Grand Prize in 1964), and praise from Igor Stravinksy. In 1964 Takemitsu met John Cage, with whom he sustained a lifelong friendship. Around this time Takemitsu began incorporating Japanese instruments into his music, starting with the soundtrack for the film Nippon no Monyo (1961), the first of his many film scores. The New York Philharmonic commissioned Takemitsu to write November Steps for the organization’s 125th anniversary and it was premiered in 1967 under Seiji Ozawa. In 1970 Takemitsu organized the contemporary musical festival “Music Today” in Tokyo, which continued for 20 years and introduced international compositional trends to Japan. Takemitsu received the 22nd Suntory Music Award in 1991.