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2018.12.07 Official Report

【Official】Interview with YASUNAMI Takashi, winner of the Sixth Prize

My students reminded me that a competition is only a small part of a particular world, which put my feet back on the ground.



- How are you feeling now as a prizewinner one night after the result announcement?

I'm reluctant for the competition to end soon. It was a surprise for me to become one of the six finalists. I felt, "Me?! Really?" and that feeling of surprise had been present ever since the announcement of the results for the semi-final of the competition.

When I heard the final result, I was actually relieved, because I wasn't happy about my performance. I learnt a good lesson.

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- I felt your deep love for Brahms from the first stage of your performance. For the final, you selected Brahms's No. 2, a masterpiece, although it was the first time that you had performed with an orchestra. It seems a big challenge to select it for your first concerto performance; did you make the decision without hesitating? Did your teacher support your decision?

I tend to aim for an ideal situation when I put together a program.... I wanted to include the Brahms, that I was eager to perform if I got through to the final of this competition, and thus it was a natural outcome of that thinking.

I currently receive lessons from two teachers at my graduate school, but there weren't many lessons right before the Hamamatsu competition. So, this time, I prepared for this competition almost by myself.


- I see, you undertook steady and solitary preparation for this competition. Your programs represented that.

Yes, indeed. I will also have multiple large-scale performance activities for another half month after this competition. So, this competition is coming to an end, but I still need to keep up my spirits for a little longer.



- You performed on the Kawai. What was your favorite point about the piano?

I selected it by just listening to the sound, blinding myself to the manufacturer's name during the piano selection session. It didn't take much time to reach my decision.

- How could you do that? Testing a piano without looking at the manufacturer's name?

I know the name is right above the keyboard. So, I approached the piano looking down and played the piano with my eyes closed; I did this for all three pianos. Even so, I somehow sensed which piano I was playing, but I tried to eliminate that sense and focused on the impression I received in that moment. I thought about my programs, and preferred the Kawai's mellow sound to the sparkling and husky sounds of the other two. I was comfortable with the piano throughout all the stages.

Well, in fact, I should be able to produce the mild, mellow sound regardless which piano I am performing on....


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-I hear that you used to study Brahms and Bartok, and now do research on Dohnanyi for a doctoral degree at a graduate school. Between the composers you have conducted extensive research into and those you haven't, is there any difference for you in how close you feel to the composer's work?

Yes, I feel there is a big difference. I think, performance experience doesn't have much of an impact when you write a research paper but writing a research paper impacts a lot on your performance. I mean, your affection for a work doesn't change whether you research the work or not, but the details of your performance definitely become more sophisticated if you have researched the work.

I am still in the first year of my doctoral degree, so I am just doing the groundwork for writing my research paper. My topic is to analyze and classify Dohnanyi's solo piano works.



-How did you first come across Dohnanyi?

As I deepened my research into Brahms and Bartok, I discovered a person who had had an impact on the lives of both composers; that was Dohnanyi. So, I started to do research into him, and then found Dohnanyi held a critical position in the world of music at his time. That's why I got interested in him.

-By the way, you took up the challenge of this competition while keeping up your work, teaching music classes with Shimamura Music, for an example. Because of that, you attracted people's attention for resembling one of the characters who appear in the novel Mitsubachi to Enrai (Honey Bees and Distant Thunder), Akashi Takashima.

Yes. It's true that I could be in a unique position compared to others who are engaged in competitions of this kind. Maybe the character and I share similar characteristics in some respects.



- I heard you gave lessons to your students before the final of the competition.

Yes. In fact, it was good to refresh my mind. I was staying at my parents' house during the competition, so I was supposed to be more relaxed. But in reality, I was unable to get rid of my nervousness and it was as if I was all alone in Hamamatsu.

Many of my students knew I was in the middle of the competition and expressed their support for me. But around 20% of them had no idea. Those students actually reminded me that a competition is only a small part of a particular world, and in that moment I was able to get my feet back on the ground (laughs).



- You found relief in an unexpected place, in an unexpected manner! But still, you had to give those lessons, despite already having a lot on your plate during the competition.

I agree. I was able to take a long holiday to a certain extent, but not to the degree that I wanted. I was allowed to take up to two weeks, but not three weeks in a row.

- That's why you had to give lessons right before your final stage...what timing!

Yes, but I think it should be part of your skillset to be able to manage your schedule...anyway, I believe it was the best schedule I could arrange within the given conditions.

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- Are there any events you have experienced or words from your teachers that have impacted on your life as a pianist?

Definitely they are some words by my current teacher at the graduate school, Professor Katsunori Ishii.

Before I started my doctoral degree, I decided to enter the workforce despite recommendations from my teachers to continue my study without taking a break. Professor Ishii accepted my decision and said, "You're going in to the world despite our recommendation to move straight onto a doctoral degree. From now on, live a life in your own way, but in which your presence still makes us pay attention to you." I am here today thanks to his words at that time.



- When did you start thinking about pursuing the path of a pianist?

I went to a junior high school with arts courses, and I had friends around me who shared the same dream. So, I think I was already aware of the path by that time. When I was in elementary school, I don't think I was that conscious, but I remember I wrote "I want to be a pianist" on my graduation essay; so somehow I already had the desire back then.



-Did you find out anything new about yourself during this competition?

Well, I found that I feel happy when I get attention, to my surprise (laughs). I used to think getting attention would just make me nervous. I now know I have sort of an ability to be insensitive in certain situations. I had thought I was a little more sensitive.



- By the way, this is nothing to do with music, but I realized you always wore your coat without putting your arms in the sleeves during the announcements of the results. It looked very cool. Do you have any particular taste in fashion?

No, no. It's just a habit for me. I'm not fashionable at all! Well, I don't normally wear casual fashion. When I go to school, or go out somewhere, I usually wear a suit, regardless of the season. I know wearing a suit in summer is strange, but I don't wear anything else but a long-sleeved shirt and a jacket. So, I have no particular taste in fashion, at all!



- You are very fussy about your fashion!

Ah...it's sort of an armor, rather than a fashion. I wear a suit in summer, although I don't like getting hot. I can't stop. I don't know why (laughs).

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- To conclude, please tell what you want to cherish as you go along the path of a pianist in the future?

Respect and love for each piece of work. I want to adore the composers and their works, by understanding the score as deeply as possible. And not just hoping to do it, I actually want to carry it out throughout my practices and performances.



Text by Haruka KOSAKA

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Hamamatsu International Piano Competition

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