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Looking back on the Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestrafs concert tour in Germany

2014.03.24 | ALL

In early August, the Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestra (geidai means “university of the arts”), consisting of members of our teaching staff and students selected from within the university, gave concerts at various locations in Germany. The following is an article contributed by Katsumi Ueda, dean of the Faculty of Music and the representative on this tour. He wrote this while looking back on the German tour.

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This concert tour was organized following a request in July 2008 from Dr. Anna Prinz, Minister of the German Embassy, and Atsuko Tohyama, president of the New National Theater Foundation, submitted to TUA president Ryohei Miyata. This request invited our faculty of music to participate in the 10th Young Euro Classic. In response, the faculty formed the Berlin plannig committee, which engaged in repeated discussions concerning the orchestra’s participation in several music festivals in Germany. Ken Takaseki (visiting professor at TUA for Fiscal Year 2009) was selected to serve as conductor. Performing musicians were selected from the student body, eventually forming the Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestra, which consisted of 93 students, the conductor, and eight members of the teaching staff. Other participants included Shoko Iwashita (soprano) and Eiko Koizumi (alt), selected as soloists for the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony scheduled to open the music festival; Kazuo Irie, piano soloist for Toshio Hosokawa’s work; and Yukiyo Takahashi, who performed her own work, selected from among various new works commissioned from Japanese composers.

20091002_021  Arriving in Germany, the orchestra played at the Concert for Peace held at the Embassy of Japan on Hiroshima Street, Berlin. This was held on August 5 (August 6 Japan time) to mark Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Memorial Day. Following a speech, vice dean Kazuki Sawa (viola/violin), associate professor Shoji Yamamoto (clarinet), and Katsumi Ueda (piano) began their performances, followed by associate professor Natsumi Tamai (violin), Kozo Moriyama (horn), specially selected by the president, and student representatives. Their impassioned performances won thunderous applause from the 100 or so invited guests, including foreign ambassadors and Japanese nationals stationed in Berlin.

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 On August 7 and 8, we participated in the 10th Young Euro Classic held at the Konzerthaus in Berlin. This music festival is one of Europe’s major musical events, in which youth orchestras invited from around the world perform and compete. The Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestra is the first Japanese orchestra to take part in this event.

 At the request of the organizers, our orchestra had the honor of performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, including “Ode to Joy,” the official anthem of the European Union, as the opening song of the 10th anniversary commemorative ceremony of the music festival held on August 7. On the following day, the first day of the general concerts, we played “Symphonic metamorphosis on themes by Carl Maria von Weber” by Paul Hindemith, “Sandra ? To the Ocean Glittering in the Sunlight” by Yukiyo Takahashi (a second-year master’s course student), and “Silent Sea for piano, string orchestra with percussion” by Toshio Hosokawa. Following the intermission, we played Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op. 100, by Sergei Prokofiev. Our performances on each day met with enthusiastic applause.

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On August 9, we participated in the North Hessen Summer of Culture, held at the stadthalle in Kassel City, to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony once again.

Our performances were well-received at each concert. We received standing ovations, the highest praise, and thunderous applause from European audiences. This was especially meaningful because Europe is the birthplace of classical music, and European audiences have a great deal of experience in classical music.

I feel certain that this German tour greatly benefited our young musicians. By seeing, hearing, and feeling the great musical performances directly through their own eyes, ears, and limbs, they learned some of the basics needed to achieve international success later in their lives. I am also certain our participation was greatly beneficial in promoting cultural exchange and international friendship through music. I saw the infinite potential of our young musicians in their performances throughout the tour. I am proud these young people were able to demonstrate so eloquently everything they learned through our university’s musical education and research efforts. In closing, allow me to express my sincere thanks to all those whose support and cooperation made the Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestra’s German tour possible: the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Japan, the New National Theater Foundation, the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research, The Tokyo Club, The Asahi Shimbun Foundation, the Doseikai (Tokyo University of the Arts, faculty of music), the Association for the Promotion of Music Education (Tokyo University of the Arts), among others.

Katsumi Ueda
Dean of the Faculty of Music
Tokyo University of the Arts

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