ECM New Series Releases Piano Concertos by Hosokawa and Mozart featuring Momo Kodama and Seiji Ozawa
Momo Kodama, piano
Mito Chamber Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor
Release Date: March 12, 2021
Momo Kodama, whose acclaimed New Series solo album Point and Line contrasted Toshio Hosakawa and Claude Debussy, here presents the piano concerto Hosakawa wrote for her, the shimmering Lotus under the moonlight, a work that emerges numinously from silence and gradually returns to it. Composed in 2006, Lotus is also a homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with distant echoes of Mozart’s Concerto. No 23 in A Major, the work with which it is paired here in a concert recording from Japan, with Maestro Seiji Ozawa and his Mito Chamber Orchestra.
In a composer’s note, Hosokawa writes that “Momo Kodama’s transparency, sensitivity and expressiveness have continued to inspire my piano music deeply. As she touches this magical instrument, she touches the mysterious energy of the universe and stirs my soul.”
Lotus under the moonlight is one of several works written by Toshio Hosokawa on themes of flowers and blossoms. Flowers are symbols of perfection in both Japanese poetry and noh theatre, with the lotus the most highly valued of all. In Buddhist tradition the blossoming of the lotus symbolizes the opening of the mind and receptiveness to revelation.
In his concerto, the composer explains, the piano represents the lotus and the orchestra the surrounding water and nature: “It is a quiet, moonlit night. The lotus flower, still in its budding stage, is bathed in moonlight and, preparing to open, falls into a dreamy doze. A deep admiration for Mozart’s music is faintly expressed in the dream.” This affinity, described by Momo Kodama as “the loving respect the Japanese lotus flower shows to the Viennese Mozart, along a bridge between the worlds of East and West,” was further emphasized by Seiji Ozawa in the Japanese premiere performances of 2006 from which the present recording is drawn. “Days of intensive rehearsals allowed us to witness the intensity and precision with which Maestro Ozawa poured his heart and soul into this work, underlining the parallels to the spirit of Mozart,” says Kodama.
Born in Osaka and educated at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, Momo Kodama is well-placed to approach music from both Eastern and Western vantage points, as each of her ECM releases has done. La vallée des cloches (recorded 2012) traced lines of influence between Orient and Occident with music of Ravel, Takemitsu and Messiaen. Point and Line (recorded 2016) juxtaposed piano études of Hosokawa and Debussy, and was described by the BBC Music Magazine as “a fascinating meta-work that creates myriad associations, resonances, and new perspectives. Kodama brings a wonderful capacity for stillness to Hosokawa’s often ascetic language.”
After her time at the Paris Conservatory in the class of Germaine Mounier, Momo Kodoma made further studies with Murray Perahia, András Schiff, Vera Gornostaeva and Tatiana Nikolaïeva. In 1999, she became the youngest winner of the Concours International ARD in Munich. Momo Kodama has been invited to perform with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Tokyo Symphony, NHK Symphony, NDR Hamburg, Radio France Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, Eliahu Inbal, Charles Dutoit, Jun Märkl, Lawrence Foster, Kent Nagano, André Prévin and Sir Roger Norrington. Her musical partners have included Renaud Capuçon, Christian Tetzlaff, Steven Isserlis and Jörg Widmann.
Toshio Hosokawa was born in Hiroshima in 1955. He studied in Berlin with Isang Yun and in Freiburg with Klaus Huber and Brian Ferneyhough before returning to Japan, where he developed and refined his compositional style, influenced by Japanese traditional music and Noh theatre, by the sparse strokes of calligraphy, and by the sights and sounds of nature. The present recording is the fourth ECM New Series to feature Hosokawa’s music. Others, in addition to the aforementioned Point and Line, include Thomas Demenga’s double album Hosokawa/Bach/Yun, in which chamber music by Toshio Hosokawa and Isang Yun frames performances of Bach cello suites. Landscapes, recorded 2009 in Munich, features the Münchener Kammerorchester under Alexander Liebreich playing Hosokawa’s music for shō and orchestra, with soloist Mayumi Miyata.
Seiji Ozawa’s advocacy of modern composers has been one of the hallmarks of his long creative life, which has included celebrated work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, of which he was music director for three decades.
Founded in 1990 in the city of Mito, situated in the northern Kantō region of Japan, the Mito Chamber Orchestra, under Seiji Ozawa’s direction, has achieved a reputation for its distinctive musical signature, combining the meticulousness of a chamber group with the sense of scale of a larger orchestra.
CD booklet includes notes by Toshio Hosokawa and Momo Kodama, in English and German, and photos from the Japanese premiere performance in Mito.