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Conductor Emeritus Ken Takaseki
Ken Takaseki was born in Tokyo. He started to study piano and violin early in his childhood. He won the Karajan Competition in Japan in 1977 while he was still a student at the Toho Gakuen School of School of Music. After graduating from the school the following year, he leftJapan to study at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Academy (Karajan Foundation) and worked as an assistant to Herbert von Karajan till 1985. During the summer of 1981, he studied under Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa at Tanglewood Festival. In the sameyear, he made his debut in Europe with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra in Norway.
In 1983 he won the 2nd prize at the Nicolai Malco Competition for Young Conductors, and in 1984 he drew attention when he won the Hans Swarowsky Competition. In January 1985, he made his debut in Japan with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra at its subscription concert. In 1991 he conducted the NHK Symphony Orchestra at its subscription concert and received outstanding critical acclaim. In 1994, he toured around Europe with the Gunma Symphony Orchestra with great success performing in various places and on such occasions as Prague Spring International Music Festival and Festival of Vienna.
Besides many orchestras in Japan, he has performed with Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bergen Symphony Orchestra, Denmark National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Deutche Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Klangforum Wien, and WDR Symphonie Orchester Koeln among others. In 1994, he toured around Europe with the Gunma Symphony Orchestra with great success. In February 2013 and April 2017, he conducted a subscription concerts of the St.Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, bringing out a full, rich sound from this distinguished Russian orchestra and receiving high praise from the audience and orchestra members.
His opera conducting career includes Mozart’s DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE (1990, 2007), LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (1991) and Monteverdi/Henze’s IL RITOMO d’ULISSE IN PATRIA (2009) with Tokyo Nikikai, Verdi’s FALSTAFF at a subscription concert of Gunma Symphony Orchestra (2003), Britten’s CURLEW RIVER at Sumida Triphony Hall (1997) and PETER GRIMES with The College Opera House Osaka (2013), Dan’s YUZURU at New National Theatre,Tokyo (2011) and Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte at New National Theatre,Tokyo Opera Studio (2017).
Takaseki has earned the profound trust of artists. At the Pierre Boulez Kyoto Prize Workshop in 2009, for example, he received high praise from Pierre Boulez and such world-renowned soloists as Mischa Maisky, Itzhak Perlman, and in particular Martha Argerich, for his performances over the course of three concerts including the Japan premiere of a work by Rondion Schedrin.
He was Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (1986-1990); Conductor of the New Japan Philharmonic (1994-2000); Principal Conductor of the Century Orchestra Osaka (1997-2003); Music Director of the Gunma Symphony Orchestra (1993-2008); Resident Conductor of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra (2003-2012); Principal Guest Conductor of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra; and currently he is a Principal Conductor of the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, Resident Conductor（Chief Conductor from April 2023）of the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, Professor for conducting department, faculty of music of Tokyo University of the Arts. April 2021, he appointed Chief Conductor of the Mt.Fuji Philharmonic Orchestra. (Shizuoka Symphony Orchestra)
He won Akeo Watanabe Foundation Music Award in 1996, Hideo Saito Memorial Fund Award in 2011 and Suntory Music Award in 2018.
In March 2019, he conducted Dan Ikuma’s opera “Yuzuru” at Vladivostok and St. Petersburg, as part of the “Japan Year in Russia”.
In April 2021, he conducted the New National Theatre,Tokyo Opera production, Stravinsky’s “Le Rossignol” and Tchaikovsky’s
Conductor Laureate Ken-ichiro Kobayashi
Ken-ichiro Kobayashi studied composition and conducting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (now Tokyo University of the Arts). He received both the first prize and the special award at the 1st International Conductors’ Competition in Budapest.
Kobayashi has appeared in major international music festivals and held positions with many orchestras in Japan and abroad. Through activities including successful Japan tours with overseas orchestras such as the Hungarian National Philharmonic and Czech Philharmonic, as well as overseas tours with the Japan Philharmonic and other Japanese orchestras, Kobayashi has made remarkable contributions to society and international exchange through culture. For these contributions, he was acknowledged by the Director of the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2011, and received the Order of the Rising Sun in 2013 and The Imperial Prize and the Japan Art Academy Prize in 2021. He was also awarded the Liszt Memorial Decoration, the Hungarian Order of Culture, the “Middle Cross with the Star” decoration, and the title of Hungarian Cultural Ambassador from the Hungarian government.
As a composer, Kobayashi has produced numerous works. In 1999 he composed “Passacaglia,” a work for strings commissioned in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Japan. Its first performance with the Netherlands Philharmonic received an enthusiastic ovation, and it has since been performed on a variety of occasions.
Kobayashi has released numerous CDs and DVDs on Octavia Records. His books include A Conductor’s Reflections (published by Kikoshobo) and Going to an Orchestra Concert with Ken-ichiro Kobayashi (published by Junposha).
Since 2005, with his social contribution-oriented project “Kobaken and Friends,” Kobayashi has carried out charity concerts throughout Japan together with volunteer members who share his vision, including professional, amateur, student and challenged musicians. His sincere approach to music and passionate conducting style have earned him the nickname “fiery Kobaken.” One of Japan’s leading maestros, Kobayashi has appeared as guest conductor with many Japanese and overseas orchestras.
Presently Kobayashi holds positions with the Japan Philharmonic (Honorary Conductor Laureate), Hungarian National Philharmonic (Conductor Laureate), Nagoya Philharmonic (Conductor Laureate), Gunma Symphony (Conductor Laureate), Yomiuri Nippon Symphony (Special Guest Conductor), and Kyushu Symphony (Honorary Guest Conductor). He is also a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts and the Tokyo College of Music, honorary professor at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. He used to be a Music Director of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and United Art Directors of Nagano Prefecture. He is a trustee of the Rohm Music Foundation and music director of Toshima city, Tokyo.
Chief Conductor Norichika Iimori (From April 2023）
Norichika Iimori graduated from the conducting course of the Toho Gakuen School of Music. After studying in Berlin and Munich, beginning in 1994 he held successive posts including Resident Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Guest Conductor of the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, and Resident Conductor of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra. In 1996 he led the European tour of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and was lauded in a newspaper which said, “Iimori will surely go on to attract international attention.” In 2003, in his first appearance in a subscription concert of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Iimori conducted a successful performance of Mahler’s 1st Symphony. In 2006 he was awarded the “Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists” from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Iimori has been invited to conduct many world-class orchestras including the Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, and Prague Symphony Orchestra. In 2001 he became General Music Director of the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he recorded the complete Beethoven Symphonies and carried out a successful Japan tour in 2006.
In 2016 Iimori recorded “Mozart: The Complete Symphonies” with the Yamagata Symphony Orchestra, one of the few recordings of the composer’s complete symphonies in the world and the first in Japan. He is currently making a recording of “The Complete Haydn Symphonies” with the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra Currently, Norichika Iimori is Music Director of the Pacific Philharmonia Tokyo, Principal Conductor of the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Laureate of the Yamagata Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka, Principal Guest Conductor of the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Chubu Philharmonic Orchestra. In April 2023, he will become Chief Conductor of the Gunma Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Tokyo, Ayano Ito started violin lessons at the age of three. Before entering high school, she performed as a soloist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra. After Toho Gakuen Music High School, she graduated from Toho Gakuen College Music Department with a first-class honors degree. Ito won first prize in the Tokyo International Music Competition for Chamber Music and Hideo Saito Award, and she accepted an invitation to perform at the Tanglewood Music Festival.
In 1993, Ito left Japan to study at the Bern University of the Arts (HKB) on a Swiss government scholarship. In 1996, she graduated from HKB with a first-class honors degree and won third prize (there was no first-prize winner) in the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition. After returning to Japan, she served as the concertmaster of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra.
In 2000, Ito was awarded the Energia Music Award for her achievements in the music world in Hiroshima. In addition, she performed as a soloist several times with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra on NHK’s radio program FM Symphony Concert. Ito has also pursued a career as a soloist and chamber music performer. In 2009, she became the concertmaster of the Gunma Symphony Orchestra. In 2019, she was awarded the Jomo Shimbun Award for Music sponsored by the Jomo newspaper publishing company. She has studied violin under Saburo Sumi, Koji Toyoda, Masafumi Hori, Toshiya Eto, Katsuhiko Tamaki, and Igor Ozim and chamber music under Bruno Canino and J.E. Dähler.
Ito made a live recording of Brahms: Complete Violin Sonatas with conductor Kazumasa Watanabe and released a CD in 2010.
◎Principal player ［50音順］
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