4. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Otsu

The Empoeror of Japan's Imperial Palace - we passed this impressive place on the way to catching the bullett train.

The Empoeror of Japan’s Imperial Palace – we passed this impressive place on the way to catching the bullett train.

The RLPO were up bright and early today to make our first ride on the famous Japanese Bullet Train. Very punctual and very swift!

unnamed-4We travelled from the hotel by coach to Tokyo Station to get the train to Kyoto before transferring to coach again to Otsu.

Tuba Ryan Breen and Section Leader Trumpet Rhys Owens on the Bullett Train

Tuba Ryan Breen and Section Leader Trumpet Rhys Owens on the Bullett Train

The venue for our fourth day in Japan and our third concert was Biwako Hall for our Shostakovich and Rachmaninov programme.

Biwako Hall

Biwako Hall

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Chief Conductor : Vasily Petrenko


Shostakovich : Festive Overture

Rachmaninov : Concerto No. 3 (soloist : Nobuyoki Tsujii)

Shostakovich : Symphony No. 10

Piano Virtuoso Nobyuki Tsujii

Piano Virtuoso Nobyuki Tsujii

Here’s a little Wiki knowledge about this ancient city…



Ōtsu (大津市 Ōtsu-shi?) is the capital city of Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Ōtsu is known as the main port of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. It briefly served as the capital of Japan from 667 to 672 AD during the Asuka period (538 – 710). The city is home to numerous sites of historical importance, notably the temples of Mii-dera, Ishiyama-dera, and Enryaku-ji and the Hiyoshi Taisha shrine. Enryaku-ji is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)”. Ōtsu was incorporated as a city on October 1, 1898.

Biwako Concert Hall

Biwako Concert Hall

The Biwako Hall, set in stunning scenery by Lake Biwa is similar in size to Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, seating just over 1800 at full capacity.

unnamed-7Although the volume of space within the hall is much more vast!


The backstage area is also enormous. Also the couple of floors of subterranean offices all make me feel a tad envious of these new wonderful facilities in the Far East…


The RLPO coaches arrived at this most striking piece of architecture in time to stretch our legs for half an hour or so before rehearsal.

Extra-Trumpet Cai Isfryn doing his warm-up routine!

Extra-Trumpet Cai Isfryn doing his warm-up routine!

For players like me, this time is essential to get ‘the chops’, breathing and fingers etc warmed up.

Section Leader Horn Tim Jackson limbering up for the tricky solos in Shostakovich 10

Section Leader Horn Tim Jackson limbering up for the tricky solos in Shostakovich 10

At all the Japanese concert hall, we have been greeted very warmly and with genuine appreciation. We couldn’t be made more welcome. At each venue we have been provided with cakes, biscuits, sweets etc. The environmentally conscious Japanese even request the the orchestra write their names on a paper cup so we can re-use them throughout our visit rather than waste them. Nice one!



The first portion of the rehearsal was dedicated to Nobyuki get used to the piano for his Concerto no. 3 by Rachmaninov. He didn’t seem to have any trouble at all!!!

unnamedVasily then got the orchestra used to the rather large acoustic for Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Symphony no. 10.

Petrenko rehearsing the RLPO

Petrenko rehearsing the RLPO


RLPO Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko

Otsu is very proud of it’s Arts and this special centre serves the city admirably. Here’s a little snippet off the official web site…

“… Sing, dance and play on the scenic shores of Lake Biwa – Biwako Hall is an arts center fully equipped to provide exciting experiences of top class performing arts. From the land of fresh water, the wings of arts spread free to fly into the future.Opera, ballet, musicals and classical concerts – a kaleidoscope of performing arts is staged in the Main Theatre. Once the curtain rises, the performers and the audience join in a celebration of arts.”

RLPO - The Bassty Boys!

RLPO – The Bassty Boys!

The rehearsal went according to plan so we had from 1.30 pm until the concert at 4pm to grab something to eat or have a look around etc. It was such a nice, sunny day that I went to sit by Like Biwa to see the scenery and have a further study of my BBC learn Japanese quickly book…


I’m determined that no one criticises me for not having shiny concert shoes!!!

unnamed-6 unnamed-10 unnamed-7 unnamed-5 unnamed

Peaceful, beautiful and uncluttered.

Just wonderful!

The concert was once again greeted by shouts for more and rapturous applause. Blind piano genius Nobuyuki Tsujii is treated as more popular and important than an international rock star in Japan. Quite right too! His perfect playing, delivered with such panache drove the audience wild. Once again, he couldn’t leave the stage without playing two encores. The audience were still demanding more as he took his final curtain call. Likewise for the RLPO. Shostakovich Symphony no. 10 was greeted with shouts of bravo. Of course, we have won many awards with our recording and Petrenko-san has been staying behind afterwards to sign copies for the audience. We too couldn’t leave the stage until we had played two encores again. Even then, the audience were still shouting for more. I would like to mention the playing of Tim Jackson in Shostakovich 10. Our Principal Horn delivered his solos as perfectly as I have ever heard. I should know because I sit right at his business end!

Afterwards, the orchestra were bussed to nearby Osaka as we would be performing another afternoon concert there tomorrow. We arrived in the evening. Jet lag is taking it’s toll on many, including me. After all, in Japan we are nine hours ahead of the UK.

Jet lag is taking it's toll on many!

Jet lag is taking it’s toll on many!

Osaka is famous for it’s Teryaki. In my household, in which the better half is Japanese, Teryaki is grilled fish or meat which is repeatedly dipped in a glaze of soy sauce, mirin and sugar. The fillet is repeatedly dipped in the glaze during cooking, then cut into thin strips before serving.


I took a walk around Osaka in the dark for a while enjoying the canals and many streets teeming with teryaki restaurants. The city looks extremely pretty at night and the smell delicious food is intoxicating.


One of the extremely numerous and busy teryaki restaurants


Sometimes I just love this job!!!



About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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3 Responses to 4. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Otsu

  1. Robin Bloxsidge says:

    Thanks again Brendan!

  2. Pingback: 5. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Osaka | Brendan Ball's Blog

  3. Pingback: RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Read About The Whole Tour! | Brendan Ball's Blog

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