The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946. Jonathan Nott, taking over as Music Director of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in 2014, opens his inaugural season with a performance of Mahler's 9th Symphony. The Orchestra has Hubert Soudant and Kazuyoshi Akiyama as Laureate Conductors, Norichika Iimori as Resident Conductor, Krzysztof Urbanski as Principal Guest Conductor, and Naoto Otomo as Honorary Guest Conductor. The line-up of conductors who have conducted for the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in the past include distinguished names such as Arvid Jansons, Hidemaro Konoye and Masashi Ueda.
In April 2011, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra was accredited as 'a public interest incorporated foundation' by the Cabinet Office, which meant that its activities were widely recognized as being sound and serving public interest. Moreover, it was chosen as one of the four orchestras to receive annual provision for the first year of the Japan Arts Council's Special Programme for Top-level Performing Arts Creativity that was inaugurated in fiscal year 2012.
Since September 2012, the orchestra has been run by a new management team consisting of Hideo Sawada, who was invited from H.I.S. Co., Ltd. as the new Chairman, Tadashi Yokokawa as Honorary Chairman, Hajime Hirasawa and Tatsumi Yoda both as Vice Chairman.
Since becoming the resident orchestra of the City of Kawasaki in July 2004, the Tokyo Symphony has been holding Kawasaki subscription concerts, masterpiece collection concerts, music appreciation classes, citizen's concerts as well as visiting and performing at facilities in various parts of the city. It has also signed a semi-resident orchestra agreement with the City of Niigata, where it has been performing subscription concerts, special concerts, concerts for fifth graders and others since 1999.In 2013, the Orchestra has agreed with a new partnership with Hachioji College Community & Culture Fureai Foundation.
The orchestra performs over 160 times a year, combining both self-produced performances and commissioned performances. It has been playing at New National Theatre, Tokyo's opera and ballet performances from January through March every year as one of the two regularly performing orchestras.
The Tokyo Symphony has a reputation for giving first performances of a number of new contemporary music and opera. Some of the major new works that it has performed in recent years include Helmut Lachenmann's opera The Little Match Girl (2000, Japanese premiere, concert-style) Toshiro Mayuzumi's opera Kojiki (A Record of Ancient Matters) (2001, Japan premiere, concert-style), John Adam's El Nino (2003, Japan premiere), John Adam's Flowering Tree (2008, Japan premiere, centre-stage style),Janacek Opera Series, Schubert's Symphony Zyklus (2008), Schoenberg Project (2011) and others, which have attracted attention in the music circle every year. Through these activities, the orchestra has received most of Japan's major music awards such as the Minister of Education Award, Ongaku no Tomo Sha Award, the Grand Prix of Kyoto Music Award, Mainichi Art Award, Agency for Cultural Affairs Art Award, Mobil Music Award, Suntory Music Award and the Special Prize of Kenzo Nakajima Music Award. In 2013, the Orchestra received the Kawasaki City Culture Award for 2013, which is given to an individual or organization in recognition of their remarkable efforts in developing and advancing culture and the arts in Kawasaki City.
The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra won the 21st Music Pen Club Japan Awards in the Concert and Performance Category for Schubert Zyklus, which was performed in the subscription concert in 2008. In the following year, the orchestra won prizes in two other categories of the same awards, namely the prize for Best Recording Product in the Classical Music Category and the prize for Best Recording in the Audio Category (recorded by N&F), for the recording of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7. Winning the same award for two consecutive years attracted attention to the orchestra all at once. In the orchestra ranking conducted by a music magazine in 2008, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra gained the highest positioning among Japanese orchestras.
Outside of Japan, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra has performed 71 times in 53 cities, commencing with the tour to North America in 1976. In recent years, it was invited to China's Dalian Summer International Art Festival in July 2010, becoming the first Japanese orchestra to perform in Dalian. The performance achieved great success and the orchestra was again invited to the same festival in July 2011.
The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra has also worked on concerts for children from an early stage. It received the 2010 Himawari Medal of Honor in the Group Category, highly commended for "making significant contributions to carrying on music culture to the next generation" through the 'Orchestra Experience from Age Zero' project (held since 2007). The 'Subscription Concert for Children' series (held since 2001), presented in collaboration with Suntory Hall, has drawn attention not only from the music circle but also from various fields for its innovative idea of presenting the first subscription concert for children in Japan.
The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra has also been actively engaged in recording and broadcasting projects. It has released albums from several labels such as TOKYO SYMPHONY Label, N&F Label, King Records, EXTON and Nippon Columbia Label. The orchestra also regularly performs on TV Asahi's programme 'Untitled Concerts'.
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 Music.
After graduating from the school the following year, he left Japan 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 same year, he made his debut in Europe with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra in Norway.
In 1983 he won the second prize at the Nicolai Malco Competition for Young Conductors, and in 1984 he drew attention when he won the Hans Swarowsky Competition. In January the next year, he made his debut in Japan with the Japan Philharmonic Symphony 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, he conducted a subscription concert 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 Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with Tokyo Nikikai, Verdi’s Falstaff at a subscription concert of Gunma Symphony Orchestra (2003), Britten’s Curlew River at Sumida Triphony Hall (1997), Peter Grimes (2013) and Dan’s Yuzuru at New National Theatre Tokyo in February 2011, which was his debut at the theater, and Britten’s, all well received.
He was Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (1986-1990); Conductor of the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra (1994-2000); Principal Conductor of the Century Orchestra Osaka (1997-2003); Music Director for the Gunma Symphony Orchestra (1993-2008); and Resident Conductor for the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra from April 2003 to March 2012.
He won Akeo Watanabe Foundation Music Award in 1996, and Hideo Saito Memorial Fund Award in 2011.
He is a guest professor for conducting department, faculty of music of Tokyo University of the Arts.
Takaseki was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra. from April 2014.
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