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August 9, 2009

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Mozart maestro draws energy from China tours

JAPANESE pianist Yoko Kikuchi (pictured below) is one of her country's most talented performers and also its first winner, in 2002, at the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg.

Kikuchi visited China last month to perform at Hangzhou Grand Theater and Shenzhen Music Hall. During her concert tour in China, Kikuchi spent several days practicing in Shanghai.

She played Kodaly's "Dances for Galantai," Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 23" and Bartok's "Concert for Orchestra" in her Chinese concerts.

Born in Japan in 1977, Kikuchi started learning piano at the age of four and later continued her studies in Italy in the late 1990s with Franco Scala, Antonio Ballista and Stefano Fiuzzi.

In 1997, she made her debut solo recital in Milan and was appointed soloist for the tour of the Filarmonici di Sicili under Hubert Soudant.

Her performance of Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto No. 3" on three consecutive nights received highly favorable reviews.

"When Kikuchi is playing Mozart's works, she confidently and successfully expresses the musical dramatics. The struggle, desolation and resilience in the music can absolutely be felt from her playing," commented Ren Haijie, renowned Chinese music critic.

Her first CD album featuring Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 21" released in 2005 won the 18th Music Pen Club Prize's "Best Recording by a Japanese Artist."

Mozart maestro draws energy from China tours

Q: Were you happy with your concert in Hangzhou and the audience reaction?

A: The show was great and I was happy with the feedback from the audience. It's also the first time I've seen so many children in my audience. Their smiles and innocent faces made me very happy. I also like giving concert tours around the world and knowing different cultures.

Q: Could you discuss your understanding of Mozart's works?

A: It's so difficult to understand Mozart.

I think I will spend all my life trying to understand them so I am lucky to have many opportunities to play him. As his works are mainly for opera, there are many conversations and emotions reflected through the music.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about playing piano?

A: I usually spend over eight hours every day practising and even more if I play new scores. The touring is tiring and I have to be 100 percent focused on playing but I've never found it boring.

Q: What are the rewards?

A: I am happiest when performing because I like communicating with my audience through the music.

Q: You debuted in China in 2006 with performances in Wuhan and Shanghai. What are your memories of those shows?

A: The experience was perfect and the orchestras in China are very energetic. They love music as I do and I think we shared that it was the most important thing for us. They also gave me a lot of energy through their performance.

Q: What do you think of Shanghai?

A: It's really hot now (laughing). Shanghai is a beautiful city full of energy. There are both new and old buildings here which make the city very interesting. I think I should discover more about this city.

Q: Besides piano, do you play any other music instruments?

A: No other music instruments. Piano is my one and only favorite.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I spend most of my time playing music.In the leisure time, I like reading, going to good restaurants with family and friends, also taking a walk around. My favorite cuisines are Chinese and Italian food. I lived in Italy for 13 years before I went to Berlin in Germany.

Q: What are your plans for the near future?

A: After the China concert tour, I will give two more concerts in Japan and then I will return to Berlin where I spend most of my time.


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