HONOLULU, HAWAII – Symphonic music officially returns to Hawai‘i on Sunday, March 4 as the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra opens its inaugural season at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Concert Hall. The season opening concert on Sunday begins at 4 p.m. and repeats on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. Revered Japanese conductor Naoto Otomo and acclaimed pianist Lisa Nakamichi join the orchestra for these concerts featuring two momentous masterworks: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, as well as Weber’s Overture to Oberon. Tickets start at $30 and are on sale now at the Hawai‘i Symphony Box Office: (808) 593-9468. For more information, visit www.hawaiisymphonyorchestra.org.

The Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra 2012 season begins with a music icon: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The Fifth, which epitomizes Beethoven’s life and musical style, is traditionally heard at inaugural concerts of new orchestras, such as The Philadelphia Orchestra (1900), New York Philharmonic (1842) and National Symphony Orchestra (1931). As an emblem of classical music, the Fifth is truly “fate knocking at the door.”

Opening this historic concert is one of Hawai‘i’s favorite artists, Lisa Nakamichi, in performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. It is one of only two concertos Mozart wrote in a minor key. With its dramatic intensity, it is no wonder the D-minor was the only Mozart concerto Beethoven ever performed.

“Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor is one of the most important and beautiful works in the repertoire,” said Nakamichi. “While everyone thinks of his music as lighthearted, the Piano Concerto No. 20 reveals another side to his genius. It is one of the few pieces he wrote solely for himself, without a commission or direction from a patron. During his lifetime, composers mostly depended on commissions from wealthy patrons to sustain themselves. They wrote what their patrons wanted. With this work, Mozart was able to write something exclusively for himself, revealing his true feelings.”

This concert marks the first time Nakamichi will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in concert.

About Lisa Nakamichi
A resident of Hawaii, Lisa Nakamichi has appeared in numerous recitals and concerts in major cities of the U.S., Canada and Japan. Upon her successful solo debut recital in Tokyo in 1995, sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Culture, Nakamichi appeared in concerto performances throughout Japan, including the New Star Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo, the Kyushu Philharmonic in Nagasaki, and the Kyoto Symphony in Kyoto.

Nakamichi’s concerto performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 K. 467 with the Hiroshima Symphony was reviewed in the Chugoku Newspaper as “brilliant Mozart playing” bringing  Nakamichi high acclaim as one of the leading young pianists in Japan.

A dual Canadian citizen, Nakamichi was invited to perform in a special concert event in May 1988 sponsored by the cities of Montreal and Hiroshima as part of the sister-city signing ceremony where she was awarded with a standing ovation, including both mayors of Montreal and Hiroshima. In 1989, Nakamichi made an honorable appearance at the residence of the Consul General of Japan in Honolulu, presented by the Japanese government.

Nakamichi has strong ties with the musical activities in the Hawaiian Islands. In 2006, Nakamichi founded the Aloha International Piano Festival & Competition (AIPF), a non-profit organization that presents an annual music festival and competition in Honolulu, including concerts, masterclasses, teacher workshops, free education events and a weeklong piano academy. AIPF’s mission is to enrich Hawaii’s communities through high-quality music education and performance opportunities.

A prizewinner of many national and international competitions, Nakamichi has been awarded honors in the Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition, the International Music Competition of Japan, and the ABC Music Awards in Osaka, among many others. While at The Juilliard School, she was a recipient of the prestigious William Petzchek Scholarship. To learn more about Nakamichi and the Aloha International Piano Festival, visit http://alohapianofestival.com.

About Naoto Otomo
One of the leading conductors of his generation, Naoto Otomo is Permanent Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Kyoto Symphony, a post he’s held since 1994. Additionally, he has held the post of Permanent Conductor of the Tokyo since 1991. He is also Music Director of Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan Orchestra.

Otomo was born in Tokyo and began his music training on the piano at the age of four. Later, he attended Toho Gakuen High School where his musical interests led him to take up conducting. Recognized for his remarkable natural talents, Otomo was subsequently accepted for university studies at the affiliated Toho Gakuen School of Music, one of the most renowned music institutes in Japan. There, he studied under leading Japanese conductors including Seiji Ozawa, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, and Tadaaki Otaka.

At the age of 21, Otomo was made Assistant Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the youngest person ever to assume that post. He made his debut with that ensemble the same year, 1979, with a critically-acclaimed performance of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe. During his tenure at the NHK, he had opportunities to work with conductors that included Wolfgang Sawallisch, Gunter Wand, Ferdinand Lightner, Jascha Hortenstein, and Herbert Blomstedt. Subsequently, he went to the United States for further study at Tanglewood, working with such eminent conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Igor Markevitch, and Seiji Ozawa.

Past professional posts have included Resident Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic between 1986 and 1988, and Conductor of the Osaka Philharmonic from 1986 to 1989. In 1992, Otomo and contemporary composer Shigeaki Saegusa combined efforts to form the Japan Virtuosi Orchestra. The ad hoc group consisted of about 100 members from the ranks of Tokyo’s nine major orchestras and performed several times each season through the major cities of Japan. Recording on labels that included Sony Music and Alfa Music Records, they were broadcast regularly on NHK television and radio.

In addition to extensive touring within Japan, Otomo has conducted tours of orchestras that include the Osaka Philharmonic, taking the baton in Bonn, Nuremberg, Zagreb, and Bern to effusive reviews. Other recent European projects included tours to Italy and Turkey with the Tokyo Symphony as well as a debut engagement with the Stockholm Philharmonic. In 2003, he shared podium duties, conducting London’s Philharmonia in their tour of Japan.

Otomo made his operatic debut in 1998, conducting Weber’s Der Freischutz to critical acclaim. Following this triumph, he conducted a number of productions, including Gluck’s Orfeo and Euridice with Tokyo’s Nissay Arts Theatre; Verdi’s Rigoletto with the Nil Foundation; and Magic Flute at the Aichi Prefecture Theatre and the Kansai Nikikai Opera Company as well as the Nissay Arts Theatre. He conducted Shingaeki Saegusa’s Chuschingura (better known in the West as The Loyal Forty-seven Ronin) to critical acclaim in Nagoya.

Invitations from major orchestras around Japan have steadily assumed the larger portion of this artist’s schedule in recent seasons. Otomo is a favorite of audiences throughout the country, regularly appearing with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and New Japan Philharmonic.

To date, Otomo’s career has included collaborations with artists that include tenor Jose Carreras, pianists Andre Watts. Helene Grimaud and Jean-Yves Thibaudet; violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, Augustin Dumay and Frank Peter Zimmermann, pianist Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, and violist Yuri Bashmet, among others.

Submitted by Hawaii Symphony Orchestra

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