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2018.12.22 Official Report

【Official】Interview with USHIDA Tomoharu, winner of the second prize

This competition brought me happiness, through positive encounters and positive experiences.




-How do you feel about the final result?

It was much better than I expected, and I am very pleased with the result. I'd like to use this opportunity as a stepping stone and keep on studying in the future.

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- Have you noticed any changes in yourself during this competition?

I devoted time to studying my repertoire in preparation for this competition, and I feel there are some parts of me that have grown during the process. I also discovered new delights in the works as I studied them more deeply. As a result, I think my performance changed significantly.



-Will your performance in your concert activities change accordingly in the future?

I think my fundamental essence will remain unchanged. But I'd like to get increasingly close to the core of the music to achieve a higher level of attainment.



- It had a particularly strong impression on me when you mentioned that you feel you have to become a musician of genuine capabilities to merit your long-time supporters. Do you think you were able to make the first step towards that through this competition?

Yes, I think this competition has been a major milestone for me in terms of renewing my determination. I think my supporters enjoyed watching a different me from the one in the usual concert setting.


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You are already involved in lots of performance activities. Given that, how did others respond when you announced that you were going to take part in the Hamamatsu Competition?

In fact, I got the feeling that they thought it was a good time for me to apply for a competition. Because you can learn a lot from that experience.

A direct trigger was that in April, my teacher of Masterclass in Moscow at the time, suggested I applied to enter a competition, and told me to pick one whichever I liked. So I did some research and found that the Hamamatsu fitted in well with my schedule. I also felt Hamamatsu would make a great starting point because it is such a special location for me. That's how I made up my mind. But I only had five days before the close of the application period for the Hamamatsu Competition, so I had to do a lot in a very short period of time...meanwhile, I had to prepare for a concert that was scheduled a week later, the program for which included Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3.

For example, to apply for the competition, I had to upload a recording of my performance via the Internet. However, I was in Moscow and the Internet connection was poor. That day, I had to travel by airplane; but the upload hadn't even finished by the time I arrived at the airport. So I was moving around the airport with my PC open, my face grim. Maybe because of my expression, I was stopped at the security check, and the staff opened up all my luggage (laughs). The upload was finally complete only half an hour before I boarded.

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Oh my・・・you were uploading something very peaceful, but you were stopped for security purposes...anyway, I'm so glad that you got through to the final after all.

It was a pleasant surprise for me to find out that I'd passed the preliminary screening. I wouldn't have been able to apply for this competition without a great deal of kind understanding and support from a lot of people; for example, I had to change my program for a concert scheduled in November. Therefore, I am truly happy to have achieved this result.



- You're currently studying in Japan and in Moscow?

Yes. I take lessons from many teachers, and thus I don't have a particular base location. I travel to wherever my teacher is.

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By the way, your performance, say of Rachmaninov among others, has a unique singing style. Where did you develop that?

I'm not sure・・・well, when I was an elementary school student, I studied Chopin a lot, and that may have quite a significant impact on me. Of course, every composer has their own style. But I somehow apply the techniques I developed during my study of Chopin to perform many different works. But that doesn't mean I'm good at Chopin (laughs).

Chopin is really challenging, and in a sense one of the composers I'm least good at. There are many different emotions within his works and each note has a profound meaning. It takes both physical and mental stamina to understand all of that and perform accordingly. Therefore, I want to devote plenty of time to his works.

Really, Chopin is the composer I want to work on when I'm in good shape physically and feeling spirited.


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Come on, you are young and spirited (laughs)!

I have studied many Russian repertoires. Based on that, I feel that many Russian works, such as those of Rachmaninov, are close to human instincts, and thus you can somehow play them naturally. Compared to them, Chopin's works are more complicated and more difficult.


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So, as you practiced such challenging works by Chopin during your childhood, your particular singing style started to develop within you? Or did your teachers have any influence?

When I was in elementary school, I took part in many master classes and learnt from them. While I was studying Chopin's concertos I also undertook my own analysis of what was missing in my performance compared to performances by great pianists, and I also learnt from that.

If you play Chopin just plainly, it won't sound like Chopin. I thought deeply about what would make my performance sound like the music of Chopin. I think that process of reflection I undertook still helps me.

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You chose the Yamaha for this competition. What is your impression of the piano?

I found it has perfect control. Some pianos excel for either fortissimo or pianissimo, but the Yamaha this time had a very good balance. Also, some pianos produce sounds that are better than I expect. That is good, but the Yamaha I chose this time produced the sounds exactly as I expected, and it was very faithful, literally mirroring my touch. Because of its precise control the piano helped me a lot as my repertoire this time was wide-ranging and included many Russian works.


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You've mentioned that your repertoire on this occasion gathered works that are closely associated with your memories of Hiroko Nakamura. A thought occurred to me while I watched you on the stage in the final, performing Rachmaninov's concerto...and it was, "it would have been surely wonderful if he had been playing this piece while Hiroko Nakamura was still alive; in the end, however, Hiroko must be enjoying his performance pure and simple now, free from everything, away from positions such as Chairperson of the Jury or being a big figure in the musical world."

I do hope so・・・I recall with resentment the last opportunity I had to perform here at ACT CITY in front of her; on that occasion, I fell onto the stage in the middle of my performance and couldn't finish it. I was able to present that piece during this competition, and I feel I was able to make amends. It means a lot to me that I made the accomplishment of playing a concerto for the first time in Hamamatsu, remembering my dear teacher, Hiroko Nakamura.


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You mean, the time almost three years ago when the 20th anniversary event was held for the Hamamatsu International Piano Academy. In fact, I refrained from asking you about it, feeling it might be a topic you would rather avoid・・・

I'm fine. Actually, I want you to ask me about it! Because of that accident, some people may think I'm still sick, but I have identified the cause; it was due to caffeine intake.

I wasn't aware of it, and I used to drink tea all the time. On that particular day, I hadn't had enough sleep the night before, and I went on stage after drinking some strong tea, which made me sick. I caused trouble for a lot of people, and I now make sure I have health checkups on a regular basis. After finding out the cause, I control my caffeine intake, and now I'm fine. I'm healthy!

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Lastly, how do you feel now reflecting on your experience of this competition?

It has been a very valuable learning opportunity for me. I'm also glad to have had the chance to listen to pianists I've wanted to do so, performing in a live setting. For example, Mr. Lee Hyuk and I are both students of Professor Ovchinnikov in Moscow for a long time, but I only knew of him through Professor Ovchinnikov. It was the first time I'd seen him in person. Well, Hyuk said he'd seen me several times in Moscow (laughs).

This competition brought me happiness, through positive encounters and positive experiences. I'd like to make a fresh start now and keep on studying to enhance my music and career in the future.


Text by Haruka KOSAKA

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Hamamatsu International Piano Competition

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  • Hamamatsu Cultural Foundation

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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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