2018.12.12 Official Report

【Official】Interview with MUKAWA Keigo, winner of the Fifth Prize

In solitude, I wanted to take time to build a strong one-on-one relationship between the composer and me.

-How are you feeling now after finishing the Hamamatsu Competition?

At the reception that followed the competition, I received comments from many people saying they liked my performances or my programs. I am very happy to know I have more supporters after this competition.


- At the interview after the semi-final, you told me that you change your sound and techniques for each composer. Have you practiced that more since you started studying overseas in France?

Yes. Right now, I study under Professor Frank Braley and Professor Haruko Ueda. Both of them teach me that aspect well.

I have kept one thing in mind since I started studying in France; that is to maintain a part of me that is not impacted by whatever results from my living in France, to keep my identity as a Japanese. While I absorb things I respect about France, I'm cautious not to immerse myself completely in the French environment. Rather I wish to stick to my identity as a Japanese at the core of my being, and not to lose various approaches I have acquired, such as the one for performing Russian music.


- When did you make up your mind to pursue the path of a pianist?

I decided to make it my career around when I was in the last year of my junior high school. I won a musical competition for students, and it was the time I had to decide which course to take after graduation. I was somehow aware that I would become a pianist. In the meantime, however, I don't think I had ever thought about anything else as a career even when I was an elementary school student.

- So, when do you feel happiest playing the piano?

I like being on stage, so I often experience that happiness during a concert. And this is a bit different from feeling happiness, but I feel very often that playing the piano is what saves me. I mean, I am usually quite nervous, or tend to think very negatively, and thus I have a feeble mind (laughs).

- Really? You mean you are able to forget about that aspect of yourself when you play the piano.

Forget about...yes, that's it. I can forget about reality. For example, when I am feeling feeble, I also feel, "I am comforted by this work by Ravel...." There are many other works that make me feel the same way, such as those by Brahms and Chopin. Well, they do give me a positive feeling of happiness, but it's more that they comfort me or reassure me when I am troubled.


- I have gained an impression through my multiple interviews with you; are you the type of person who cherishes past memories?

Ah, yes...I am a person who looks back at the past all the time (laughs). To that extent, I resonate very much with Chopin, although I didn't play his work at all during the competition. He also looks back at the past all the time.

- You chose the Kawai for this competition. Why?

I have an abstract image, a color image about the Kawai; that is "shining orange", and that alone. If the capabilities of different pianos were placed on a graph, I think the Kawai would show an extreme pattern, because it has distinct characteristics. I thought the Kawai would be a great instrument if I were able to draw out its characteristics successfully. It is totally up to me whether the Kawai's potential is fully expressed.

- So, you chose the piano for that reason, rather than selecting a piano you could perform on easily.

The Kawai would not respond if I played it insensitively; instead, if I played it with great love and care, it would produce an extraordinary sound; I wanted to unleash the charm of the Kawai.


-Did you find out anything new about yourself during the Hamamatsu Competition?

Yes, I did. In fact, I had decided before the start of this competition that I would stay on my own until I was selected as a finalist. I was determined to do so, whatever anyone said. So, I tried not to see anyone when I went to a practice room, went back to my hotel room and looked at the scores alone, took a walk, and again went to a practice room...I repeated the cycle alone. Of course, as I advanced to the next stage, it became more difficult not to see anyone during the day.

I did that for a reason. To communicate a message to someone through my performance, I need to be absolutely sure about my musical expression. And I wanted to be sure about it not because my teachers or someone else told me so but because I followed my own feeling. Therefore, I wanted to be away from the comments of others as much as possible. I even forgot about teachings from my teachers, although I respect them very much. Taking this opportunity, I just wanted to take time to build a strong one-on-one relationship between the composer and me.

I tried this and have gained a lot from the exercise over the past few weeks, although I don't know whether the form of expression I was sure about was right or not. Anyway, I feel even more confident about my music than before. I am very satisfied with the result of this exercise.

-Did you find it hard, sometimes, feeling the solitude?

I naturally like being with others, and there are lots of good things about it. But I love music, too, so it was also great to have had time just thinking about music.

-I just remembered Lifschitz, who said he needed solitude and thus bought a house on an island somewhere in the northern Europe....

Wow, that's great. I couldn't go that far. I should buy a house on an island in the future....


- To finish, please tell what you want to pursue as you build a career as a pianist in the future.

Well, that's a difficult question...after all, I like the time when I am giving a concert best, so I'd like to continue performing in front of an audience as long as possible. Under that circumstance, what I'd like to keep in mind is that I need, simply, to give my undivided attention to the work so that my message comes through it naturally, rather than trying hard to communicate it to the audience.

A child who loves Shinkansen bullet trains gets excited and says, "Look! Here comes a Shinkansen!" The child doesn't do that to persuade people around him how wonderful the bullet train is; it's simply the boy's natural expression of joy. Still, the people around him know how much the boy loves the train. That's what I'd like to achieve on stage.

Rather than trying to show something, I just hope that my love for a particular work is naturally communicated through my performance. As I deepen my one-on-one relationship with a particular work, the audience realizes that, and likes my performance. It would be wonderful if I could live that out in my journey as a pianist.


Text by Haruka KOSAKA

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Hamamatsu International Piano Competition


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  • Hamamatsu Cultural Foundation

Special Sponsors

  • All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.
  • Yamaha Corporation
  • Ensyu Railway Co., Ltd.
  • Central Japan Railways Company
  • Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
  • Roland Corporation
  • Yamaha Corporation

Supported By

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Shizuoka Prefectural Government, Japan Federation of Musicians, Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities, The Piano Teachers’ National Association of Japan(PTNA), Hamamatsu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, JAPAN PIANO TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, Jiji Press, Ltd., Sankei Shimbun, Inc., Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc., The Mainichi Newspapers, The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun・Shizuoka General Bureau, Shizuoka Shimbun and Shizuoka Broadcasting System, The Chunichi Shimbun, Tokai Headquarters, Japan Broadcasting Corporation Shizuoka Station, Shizuoka Asahi Television Co., Ltd., Shizuoka Daiichi Television Corporation, Shizuoka Telecasting Co., Ltd., Ongaku no Tomo Sha Corp., CHOPIN Magazines, Shizuoka FM Broadcasting Co., Ltd., Hamamatsu FM Broadcasting Co., Ltd., Hamamatsu Cable Television, Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd., The Piano Gallery, Ltd., Roland Corporation, Yamaha Corporation

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