The RLPO JAPAN TOUR 2015 continues a pace. The second concert is taking place in Yokohama at the Minato Mirai Hall. The programme the orchestra and Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko will be offering on this occasion is…
Stravinsky : Firebird Suite (1919)
Prokofiev : Piano Concerto no. 3 (soloist : Nobuyuki Tsujii)
Stravinsky : The Rite of Spring
The day began extremely well for me. I am so impressed with politeness of the people here and the standard of service both in the hotel and in all the restaurants and bars. The attention to detail is fantastic. This was my choice for breakfast today…
The coaches departed the ANA Intercontinental Hotel in Tokyo at 1.30pm to arrive in Yokohama for 2.30. Half an hour for lunch before having our two hour rehearsal prior to concert no. 2 at the Minato Mirai Hall. Half of this rehearsal would be to give Nobuyuki a good run through for Prokofiev Piano Concerto no. 3 and the other halt to ‘top and tail’ The Rite of Spring and The Firebird.
It is handy having family near by. Once the tour finishes my wife and I will be visiting the odd snowy area. So, we had a new pair of appropriate Japanese made boots delivered to my father-in-law’s house. This kind of thing cuts down on the necessity for carrying too much stuff around all the time. The rain has stopped (rain has been a constant companion since our arrival!) and today is a beautifully sunny day so I’ll give these boots a ‘dry’ run today.
The beautiful weather is quite glorious although cold and windy. on the above photo we are on the Yokahama Bridge, over Tokyo Bay, I think. The sunshine and apparent calm of the waters belies much. In 2011 the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster caused havoc and destruction in Japan. When the earthquake struck, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra were on this massive bridge in a coach. The traffic was at a standstill and there was nothing they could do but sit and wait as the bridge swung and bent in a most terrifying manner. Several players on that coach are on this trip and had their hearts in their mouths as we traversed the expanse in apparent calm…
Nothing happened and we arrived at the concert hall in good time. Some players went for refreshment and others practiced etc. In the picture above you can see the genius pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii tickling the ivories prior to rehearsal. On the left of him is RLPO Concert Master (leader!) James Clark. On the right is our section leader ‘cellist Jonathan Aasgaard.
The Minato Mirai Hall is a purpose built classical concert venue. It is a large room, accomodating 2, 020 audience and a whopping 290m stage. It has a fine acoustic and houses the technology to adjust reverberation. This means the hall can be adjusted to suit chamber music, solo recitals or full blown symphony concerts such as the RLPO ‘Rite of Spring’ tonight.
Once warmed up on the trumpet I took the opportunity to wander around the Minato Mirai Hall and marvel at the investment Japan has made in classical music and Western culture. This evening, my Father-In-Law, Sister-In-Law (Whom I hadn’t yet met before) and my wife would be attending the performance in Yokohama.
The rehearsal took place as planned. The new acoustic became familiar and we finished for pre-concert dinner. Right next door to the concert hall was a huge shopping ‘mall’ containing many restaurants. I arranged to meet my wife, her father and her best friend Shibou for a pre-concert meal. They chose a sushi restaurant, so I was pleased to be getting my first sushi of the Japan tour.
As with the concert on the previous day, every item was received with rapturous applause. The audience appeared to love every note played. Nobuyuki Tsujii was led to the stage by Vasily Petrenko and gave a spell binding, virtuoso display of the third piano concerto by Prokofiev. The audience insisted on two encores for him. Likewise for the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko. The audience went wild at the end of The Rite of Spring and they refused to let us leave the stage until we too had delivered two encores. The orchestra gave them Chanson De Matin by Elgar and Dance of the Tumblers by Rimsky-Korsakov.
The orchestra have an early start in the morning. We need to be checked out and breakfasted by 8 am, ready for the train journey to Otsu for our third concert of the trip. The coach journey back to the hotel is always very humorous. The brass section had chosen to go native and copy the custom honoured by many Japanese of wearing pollution masks to concerts! Today, a picture message arrived from home! My ‘chair’ in the RLPO is sponsored by the biggest brewery in Liverpool: the Liverpool Organic Brewery, who also manufacture the massively successful but exclusive Liverpool Gin. The City of Yokohama, is the second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo, and, with about 3.7 million people living there, it is the most populous municipality of Japan. It is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu. It is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area.
A little musical humour to keep you going!
TOMORROW – OTSU
I received a gift of a very nice bottle of whiskey indeed from some friends we met on day two of the tour. Having a little delve on the internet I was aware of just how good Japanese Whisky has become to be regarded. This is what I was given…
Now here is an interesting article from the Daily Telegraph from November 2014
Scotland loses out as Japanese whisky named best in the world
For the first time, not a single Scottish whisky has made it into top five of Whisky Bible 2015
By Leah Hyslop10:37AM GMT 03 Nov 2014
The Scots are famous for their whisky, but will be licking their wounds this week after a Japanese single malt was named the best in the world.
Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 was given the title by the Whisky Bible 2015, which is compiled by whisky expert Jim Murray.
He praised the whisky as “near indescribable genius”, with a “nose of exquisite boldness” and a finish of “light, teasing spice”, giving it an impressive 97.5 marks out of 100.
This year marks the first time in the book’s 12-year history that a Japanese whisky has landed the title.To add insult to injury, not a single Scotch managed to make the final five shortlist.
The winning whisky comes from Japan’s oldest malt whisky distillery Yamazaki, which was established in 1923.
The drink, of which only 16,00 bottles have been made, is aged in Oloroso sherry butts for around 12 to 15 years, giving it what Murray called a “nutty, thick, dry [taste]… as rounded as a snooker ball”.
It beat two American rivals, the bourbon William Larue Weller and Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old, which took second and third place respectively.
Mr Murray said the high quality of Japanese and other international whiskies should be a “wake up call” for the Scottish industry.
He said that the the Yamazaki tipple was “a single malt which no Scotch can at the moment get anywhere near”, and that after tasting over 1000 whiskies for the new edition, he was left wondering: “Where were the complex whiskies in the prime of their lives? Where were the blends which offered bewildering layers of depth?”
Kai Ivalo, of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, said that Japanese whiskies have gone from strength to strength in recent years, so award success was “inevitable and perhaps overdue”.
He added that more and more people were becoming aware of whiskies from around the world. “This is probably related to the success of Scotch in recent years; people are become more adventurous and curious. They are discovering new experiences which lead them to try different styles of whisky, including whiskies from other countries.”
Whisky expert Sam Simmons said the Japanese whisky was a “stunning” drink and a worthy winner, but thought it was “balderdash” to decry the Scottish whisky industry as uninventive.
“The assumption from Murray’s statements is that Japanese whisky has an edge on Scotch because of a stronger vision or wilder innovation,” he said. “But when it comes to innovations, like using local barley or local oak, there are precedents in Scotch in every case. So in what way is Japanese whisky’s success due to innovations that Scotch lacks? It is due to releasing top quality malt whiskies.”
Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 is available in specialist whisky shops and online for around £100.