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Friday, Sept. 28, 2007

Little pianos; big pianists


Japan's first toy-piano concert by accomplished Japanese pianists will be held in Tokyo on Sept. 29.

News photo
An artist plays a toy piano. EMYU PHOTO

Ranging from 10 to 37 keys and primarily designed as educational tools for small children, toy pianos have also been used in "serious" musical endeavors, such as "Suite for Toy Piano" (1948) by famous American composer John Cage, and the album "The Art of Toy Piano" (1997) by Margaret Leng Tan, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and a fan of toy pianos.

The first toy piano was invented in Philadelphia in 1872 by German immigrant Albert Schoenhut. Rather than the conventional taut wires used in full-size pianos, the toy pianos contain metal bars, which make unique chimelike notes when struck by hammers attached to the keys.

The coming performance features antique toy pianos from the 1940s and '50s, as well as modern models from Japanese and U.S. brands, whose sounds range from deep bell tones to tinkling effects. These charming instruments are owned and played by jazz pianist Hiraku Amemiya, who has performed with many international musicians as a founding member of New Jazz Syndicate; pianist/composer Yoko Arai, who combines Western and Asian influences in her works; Toshiya Nakamizo, who studied piano, oboe and ensemble music in New York; and pianist/composer Takuji Kawai, whose commissioned works include pieces for chamber orchestra and pipe organ. Emyu, an Illinois-born artist and Japan resident, will join the session playing the glass shinobue, based on a Japanese traditional bamboo flute used in kabuki and folk music.

The highlight of the concert is likely to be the premiere of Kawai's new work "Ritual" for four toy pianos.

The concert takes place at Mon-naka Tenjo Hall, Monzen-nakacho 1-20-3-8F, Koto-ku, Tokyo on Sept. 29 (2:30 p.m.). The venue is a 1-min. walk from Toei Oedo Subway Line Monzen-nakacho Station (Exit 6), or a 3-min. walk from Tokyo Metro Monzen-nakacho Station (Exit 3), Tozai Line. Tickets are ¥2,000 in advance (tel. [090] 2170-2519; kotoriyakobo@yahoo.co.jp) and ¥2,500 on the door.



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