The Japan Times, Japan
May 30 2004
Prayer in the house of music
Self-starter conductor wants to work miracles
By TAI KAWABATA
It is common for Japanese classical musicians to study in Europe, but
Hisayoshi Inoue is a rarity. With only a diploma from a public junior
high school, Inoue journeyed to Vienna in 1979, at age 16, to pursue
his piano studies, and ended up staying there 24 years.
Japan Sinfonia conductor Hisayoshi Inoue
Inoue, who eventually switched to conducting, is now back in Tokyo
with a new dream. Last year, he launched the Japan Sinfonia to
realize his simple but difficult-to-attain ideal: to offer the best
possible music to audiences.
Inoue says that as musical director and conductor of the newly
founded orchestra, which has 45 regular members, he wants to raise
the bar for orchestras here. Orchestras in Tokyo tend to focus on the
money and lose sight of the music, he says.
“Under such circumstances, musicians are likely to become cogs in the
machinery,” he says. “Japanese orchestras also have this problem.
Each orchestra’s identity is weak.”
Japan Sinfonia will limit its concerts to once or twice a year,
financed mostly with corporate and individual donations, and devote
the bulk of its time to rehearsals. In fact, according to Inoue, some
of its members drop out because the rehearsal schedule is so hard.
Inoue was first inspired to take up conducting when he was in ninth
grade, after seeing a rehearsal of the Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra
under conductor Sergiu Celibidache.
“They were rehearsing a crescendo in Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome.’
Celibidache said something like: ‘Imagine the sound of Roman soldiers
marching on the Appian Way,’ ” Inoue recalled. “His instructions and
the rehearsal were full of such imagination, and I thought, ‘What an
amazing maestro!’ ”
Inoue says he learned more about conducting by watching rehearsals
than he did in the classroom.
“In those years, all the orchestra rehearsals in Vienna were open to
the public, except those of Herbert von Karajan,” Inoue says. “I was
able to go to them, see and listen to rehearsals by legendary
maestros such as Lovro von Matacic, Eugen Jochum, Evgeny Mravinsky,
Kirill Kondrasin, Karl Bohm and Leonard Bernstein. It was an
incredible privilege. Once, I was even able to ask Jochum questions.”
In the spring of 1981, he started regularly commuting to Munich, a
five-hour journey, to attend rehearsals by Celibidache. “I was
obsessed with his conducting,” Inoue said. “But one day, I realized
that I was merely copying Celibidache’s conducting, and that this was
So in 1985 he lengthened his commute: He would ride 12 hours on the
night train, from Vienna to Cologne, to study under a different type
of conductor. For Gary Bertini, an Israeli conductor whose favorite
composer is Mahler, Inoue eventually worked as a unpaid assistant.
Inoue’s conducting debut came in March 1992, when he led the Czech
State Philharmonic Orchestra, Brno. He had been invited by the
orchestra’s manager, who had scouted Inoue after a conducting
In September 1993, he received a bigger break when Loris
Tjeknavorian, principal conductor of the Armenian Philharmonic
Orchestra, invited him to serve as the orchestra’s principal guest
conductor. He was given carte blanche to conduct whatever pieces he
wanted to. “For a 30-year-old conductor like me,” Inoue said, “it was
a fantastic opportunity.”
He says he did every conceivable piece and composer, including
Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and
Khachaturian, the best-known Armenian composer.
His association with the Armenian orchestra continued to 2002.
“Through my experience with this orchestra, I accumulated knowledge
and a repertoire, which are crucial for a conductor,” Inoue said.
Marriage to a Japanese woman brought him back to Tokyo in 2003.
“I had time to think. And I thought that as a Japanese with a long
experience in Europe, I have something that I can share with
Japanese, something that I must do here,” Inoue said. So he hit on
the idea of creating a new orchestra, and many musicians offered to
His goal is a lofty one: to re-create the image the composers impart
to each particular composition and convey those compositions as
vibrant, living entities to audiences.
“Japanese orchestras only have a fixed, patternlike image of each
composer. This pattern for Mahler, this pattern for Beethoven and so
on,” Inoue said. “But they don’t have an image concerning a
particular composition. Each one must have a different image.”
For musicians to fulfill their task, just analyzing the score is not
enough: They must have the ability to understand the social, cultural
and historical factors behind the composer and his compositions,
according to Inoue. “When playing Shostakovich’s music, for example,
our thoughts must go as far as: Why did the Soviet Union come into
being? What is Marxism-Leninism? Who was Stalin?” Inoue says. “In the
case of Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 3, we have to be aware that the
composer must have been thinking of the 1915 massacre of Armenians by
the Ottoman Empire.”
The audience responded positively at the Japan Sinfonia’s first
concert in December 2003, but Inoue said there is much room for
improvement. For the upcoming second concert, Inoue and the Japan
Sinfonia will visit milestones in the history of classical music:
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D-Major and Schubert’s Symphony No. 8
Inoue believes that being a musician is a God-given privilege, and it
is the musician’s duty to find the meaning of life.
“A concert is not an extension of everyday life,” he says. “If you go
to a concert given by a great maestro, it is like prayer at a
religious service, and members of the audience are joined with the
musicians in a quest for the meaning of life.”
The second concert of the Japan Sinfonia will take place June 9, 7
p.m., at Dai-Ichi Seimei Hall near Kachidoki Station of the Oedo
subway line. Edward Zienkowski, professor at the University of Music
in Vienna, will play the violin for Beethoven’s concerto. Webern’s
Five Moments for String, Op.5, will also be played.
For tickets (5,000 yen, 4,000 yen; and 2,500 yen for students), call
(03) 3706-4102, 050-7505-5643 or e-mail [email protected]
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress