National Cherry Blossom Festival: Kioi Sinfonietta Tokyo

I am still kicking myself at failing to attend AKB48’s debut concert stateside during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s not the same but I attended the last concert of the festival last evening after visiting the Video Game exhibit at the American Art Museum with ExecutiveOtaku earlier in the day.

It’s been years since I last attended a symphony so I was extra excited. The Kioi Sinfonietta Tokyo was to play Mozart and Beethoven with Yu Kosuge as pianist and with Thierry Fischer conducting. I arrived roughly an hour early before doors to find a long line waiting for me. A lady near the front kindly informed me that she had been there an hour prior. I felt lucky because within ten minutes of my arrival, the line more than doubled as it snaked down the hall into the rotunda of the National Gallery of Art.

I did find it amusing that the average age of those in attendance easily hovered a decade over me. The tortured kids before me were only there thanks to their father. It was delightful to see many dressed up which certainly reminded me that this is not like the concerts I have been perusing lately which fueled my excitement more.

The chosen setting remains a point of contention. Held in the West Garden Court, the surrounding plants and the sunlit dome established a welcoming and magnificent presence. However, it also provided rather limited sight lines and seating. I am sure some people were turned away. Fortunately, acoustics did not disappoint.

I have never been a fan of Mozart but it’s impossible not to feel Kosuge’s magic. I could feel the blood rush towards my cheeks as her fingers brought the piano to life during crescendos and find myself leaning forward and perhaps even holding my breath when she caressed it into slumber.

The intermission felt long but I was eager for Beethoven. It did allow me time to ponder which I spent toying around with the social contexts around classical music and those otherwise which Mike alluded to here. But why? How is the piano inherently classier than a guitar? If it’s merely a byproduct of history, then I find it rather arbitrary. The orchestra had a reply much to my surprise.

The beauty of Beethoven sang with poignant clarity. Classical music endured because it commands attention. It retains class by earning said attention. Against the background of stoic marble and black bespoke tailoring, the image presented by the slashing bows and the deliberate chaos of the waving baton seemed out of place at first but then I began to notice the music, to hear it and hear nothing else. I am not poetic enough to do justice to Beethoven. I will attempt that the unity of the various instruments produces an energy that can only be expressed in emotion.

Program:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Piano Concerto no. 22 in E-flat Major,
Allegro
Andante
Allegro

Intermission

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 3 in E-flat Major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)
Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Finale: Allegro molto

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