PRESS RELEASE Brno, 26.4.2022
One of the highlights of this season is coming up for Filharmonie Brno. Specifically, two evenings featuring Joe Hisaishi, the world-renowned Japanese composer who is also taking on the role of conductor in Brno. Under his baton, the orchestra will be playing Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7 and the Czech premiere of two pieces: Lepo Sumera’s Symphony No. 2 and Hisaishi’s Variation 57. “It is a very popular concert, the most successful so far this season at Janáčkovo divadlo. Tickets are disappearing fast, so anyone who’d like to come needs to get their skates on. Personally, I think this is a concert you won’t want to miss,” says Filharmonie Brno Managing Director, Marie Kučerová.
Joe Hisaishi (1950) enjoyed his first significant success in 1974, when still working under his birth name Mamoru Fujisawa he composed music for anime series Gyatoruzu. His other milestones were composing music for Sasuga no Sarutobi (Amazing Sarutobi) and Futari Daka (Twin Hawks). And it is for his film scores that he is celebrated around the world. He has composed over eights film scores, and his international renown has led him to work with legendary anime film director, Hayao Miyazaki. Some of Hisaishi’s most well-known film work includes music for the films Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke and The Wind Rises. His work also features in a number of films by Takeshi Kitano, and his music was also used in the video game series Ni no Kuni. While there is undoubtedly a characteristic sound to Hisaishi’s music, his compositions often explore various different genres, including minimalism, experimental electronica, Western classical music and traditional Japanese music.
According to Programme Director, Vítězslav Mikeš, in one respect Hisaishi is like Leonard Bernstein. “Bernstein saw success as a creator of musicals, but he also craved recognition within more traditional classical music. Hisaishi is mainly well-known as a composer of film scores, with his concerts being performed in large halls, but again he doesn’t hide his ambition to make a name for himself as a “serious” composer. He is making strides in this area, as his Variation 57 demonstrates. When we proposed, alongside his piece in the programme, also Symphony No. 2 by Sumera, who was born in the same year, we hadn’t realised that he knew the Estonian composer. We seriously underestimated him! Not only did he know him, but he told us that he conducts his symphonies in Japan. Hisaishi’s Variation 57 and Sumera’s Symphony No. 2 provide the opportunity not just to compare Japanese and Estonian minimalism, but above all it engenders a powerful and emotionally escalating experience,” says Mikeš.
The evening kicks off with Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7. Filharmonie Brno was unsure about its inclusion due to Russia’s current military aggression. “In the end, we decided to keep Russian music in our programmes. We are doing so for artistic reasons and also considering the many brave Russian people – including musicians – who are resisting the repressive regime. It’s worth remembering that many Russian composers were subject to similar pressure in the past, such as Dmitri Shostakovich, and in fact Prokofiev himself,” explains Mikeš. He notes that during a private recital, a party committee challenged the serene ending of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7 as not conforming to socialist realism ideas of a glorious conclusion to a Soviet symphony. Under pressure, the composer changed the ending, but he hoped that in future the piece would be played with the original ending. “We are meeting Prokofiev’s wishes and original intention: his Seventh Symphony will be played with the original ending. Considering the current situation, we also see this as a symbolic gesture,” adds Mikeš.
The evening’s second half begins with Hisaishi’s Variation 57. The composer has written a new version for Filharmonie Brno with orchestral strings – the original version only made use of a string quintet. The piano parts are taken up by the duo for whom the author composed the piece: Chief Conductor, Dennis Russell Davies, and his wife, Maki Namekawa. The piece begins with almost impressionistic runs on both pianos, interspersed here and there by rhythmically varied interjections from the chamber orchestra. “The first section of the piece demonstrates the traditional colour and harmonic diversity of Hisaishi’s music, its crescendo amplifying minimalist tendencies. The second section is an intimate duet from both soloists, penetrating the inevitable regular pulse of the piano. In the final section, the string orchestra returns, and with it the richness of colour and rhythm typical of Hisaishi’s music,” explains musicologist, Lukáš Pavlica.
The evening concludes with Estonian composer, Lepo Sumera (1950–2000), whose legacy is undeservedly overshadowed by his compatriots Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Veljo Tormis. Sumera, who was Estonia’s Culture Minister for four years, received three Estonian state prizes and the award for best film score at Portugal’s Espinho film festival. In 1997, his Fifth Symphony was chosen as a recommended work for UNESCO’s International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. “His Second Symphony, to be played in its Czech premiere, is a wonderful piece uniquely combining influences of minimalism, Sibelius-like Romanticism and Straussian sweeping sounds.
Tickets to both evenings can be purchased at Filharmonie presales, online at the website filharmonie-brno.cz or at the venue before the concerts begin.
Media contact Kateřina Konečná, Head of PR and Marketing, Filharmonie Brno
+420 775 426 040 firstname.lastname@example.org