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Friday, Feb. 12, 2010

Yazawa mixes classic piano with modern electronics

Staff writer

When Tomoko Yazawa calls, composers listen.

News photo
Contemporary classics: Tomoko Yazawa mixes her piano playing with electronic forms of music.

This champion of contemporary piano music is well-connected to composers around the world and often asks them to write new pieces for her. They often comply resulting in many works being performed at her concerts for the first time.

Yazawa differentiates herself from other classically trained musicians by utilizing mixed media, a fresh approach that includes electronically produced sounds. This may be why composers are happy to oblige her requests.

"I'm much more attracted to music that is being created than the music of former times," she says.

Yazawa graduated from the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, and holds an advanced diploma from l'Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. There she studied the performance and analysis of contemporary music under Claude Helffer.

However, it was a six-month stay in New York in 1998 that helped her develop interest in contemporary U.S. music such as minimalism, techno and pop.

Yazawa's upcoming concert will feature an electro-acoustic piece that Johann Johannsson, Iceland's leading composer, wrote at her request. She says the piece reflects Iceland's nature and it is lyrical and at the same time highly "technological."

Yazawa will also perform "La Mandragore," which Tristan Murail wrote at her request in 1993, "Love God," a piece by American Carolyn Yarnell marking its debut, and her own version of "Kid A," by Britain's Radiohead.

The program will include pieces by two representative contemporary Japanese composers — "Transient Bell" by Atsuhiko Gondai and "Walk Man" by Hirokazu Hiraishi — and contemporary standards like John Adams' "China Gate," Arvo Part's "Hymn to a Great City," and Luigi Nono's "Sofferte onde serene." Gondai's piece was written as the assigned piece for the 2009 Hamamatsu International Piano Contest, and Hiraishi's piece was written specifically to be played on piano and accompanied by electronic sounds.

Yazawa is set to talk with some of the composers over a TV phone after the show.

Tomoko Yazawa Piano Solo Electronica takes place at the small hall of Tokyo's Suginami Kokaido at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27. Tickets cost ¥4,000 (¥4,500 at the door), ¥2,500 for students and ¥3,000 for Suginami Ward residents. For details, call 03-3226-9755 or visit www.tokyo-concerts.co.jp. For more information, visit www.geishafarm.net

Want to get on the guest list to see Tomoko Yazawa? For details see jtimes.jp/yazawa

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