By Kazumasa Ikeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterMITO — The Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO), for which Seiji Ozawa serves as general director, will celebrate its 100th regular concert series in October.
The resident orchestra of the Art Tower Mito comprises accomplished instrumentalists, including internationally successful soloists and principal members of orchestras. During the past 27 years, the MCO has experienced generational changes while taking what Ozawa describes as “an ensemble close to the pinnacle of chamber music” to higher levels.
The MCO was founded in 1990 as a chamber orchestra with a few select members, at the suggestion of famed music critic Hidekazu Yoshida (1913-2012), the first director of the Art Tower Mito. Its current 26 members include veterans such as violinist Miwako Watanabe, violist Mazumi Tanamura, cellist Sadao Harada and flutist Shigenori Kudo, as well as younger members such as horn player Radek Baborak, violinist Kyoko Takezawa and cellist Dai Miyata.
The MCO’s 99th regular concert series in May was an outstanding affair. The orchestra performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 under the baton of Ozawa, with Martha Argerich as soloist. Argerich emphasized more than ever her characteristic rendition of the accents, rhythms and tempos, as if she believed there was no need to hold back when she was playing with the MCO.
The orchestra immediately responded, uplifting the legendary pianist with a tutti full of momentum. It was an opportunity for the audience to appreciate the joy of listening to a great ensemble.
During the concert, Ozawa gave his all to the performance although he was mostly seated.
“[Argerich’s] performance was phenomenal, even by her high standard,” the maestro said. “It was the orchestra that made her so absorbed in the music.
“Everyone was playing [the concerto] as if it was a piece of chamber music, listening to each other’s sound very well and not simply following the conductor,” he added. “There were many moments when it did not matter whether I was on the podium.”
The MCO’s excellent ensemble is certainly supported by the superlative technique of each member. Yet Kudo, one of the orchestra’s founding members, said that is not enough.
“The most important thing is everyone’s passion for performing with a sense of being united, without which the music would never acquire any fresh energy or inspiration,” the flutist said. “Mr. Ozawa is a conductor who gives us that feeling.”
The 100th regular concert series will take place on Oct. 13 and 15 at the Art Tower Mito, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral.” Taking into consideration Ozawa’s fragile health, Baborak will conduct the first two movements of the symphony. There was an initial option for Ozawa to conduct only the fourth movement, but he insisted he would conduct from the third because he did not want to interrupt the flow between the third and fourth movements.
Vocal soloists will include tenor Kei Fukui, and the Tokyo Opera Singers will sing the choral part.