Kimiko Ishizaka is an experienced soloist with orchestra, even if her focus in recent times has been on the solo piano repertoire. Here are reviews from performances of Mozart and Beethoven piano concerti from some years ago. Kimiko's concerto repertoire also includes the Grieg Concerto, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3, and Brahms Concerto No. 1
1996, Classical Philharmonie Telekom, Mozart Piano Concerti No. 3 (KV 40) in D major, No. 4 (KV 41) in G major
a proper fire was sparked by the young pianist from Bonn, Kimiko Ishizaka, and illustrated what kinds of possibilities of interpretation lie within both piano concerti (KV 40 and 41), which can factually be counted among the lighter and more playful repertoire. She bravely tackled her part, enchanted through coy and peppery playfulness, mastered the trills and figurework perfectly securely, and in the cadenzas, developed a measure of bravura, without crossing the borders of so-called good taste.
Her sensitive cultured touch revealed itself especially in the andante movements, in which she was completely able to convey the mood of the later concerti. For the encore, she shaped the first movement of the Haydn Sonate in B Minor, No. 32 in her own style, dry and energetic.
1999, Hofgartenorchester, University Bonn, Beethoven Concerto No. 4
The orchestra managed to obtain the pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, from Bonn, whose interpretation gave her part its own dimensions. With technical bravado, she proved great courage and energy, especially in the extended solo cadenza in the frist movement, where she showed her intuition for the sounding out of extremes, reaching from the starkly lyrical to the incessently insistant moments.
Kimiko Ishizaka's premiere performance of the Chopin Etudes op. 10 (#1-8) was well received by music critic Guido Krawinkel writing for the Bonner General-Anzeiger. The concert took place on April 14, 2013, in Haus Bachem, Königswinter, and featured 10 of the 24 Préludes by Chopin, as well as Bach's Goldberg Variations.
[Ishizaka] opened the evening with excerpts from Chopin's Préludes op. 28 and Etudes op. 10 and showed not only her formidable technique, but also much feeling and sensibility for the subtle tones between the notes.
But Ishizaka's virtuosic opening wasn't just an athletic showcase. The passionate weightlifter, who after all made it all the way to German Vice-champion, proved herself to be less a muscle man than a sensitive interpreter.
And of her Goldberg Variations:
Here Ishizaka was naturally in her element, and played the 30 variations with a vast freshness and capacity for feeling
With Kimiko's final performance of the Well-Tempered Clavier in the 1901 Arts Club on January 30, 2013, the world tour has finished. The reviews of the London performance were all very positive, here are some excerpts:
Robert Hugill wrote: "This was an evening of contrasts, because innately Ishizaka seems a very intense, poetic player and her rendering of some of the preludes was intensely moving and not a little romantic. But her command of structure in the fugues went beyond impressive, she was able to bring poetry to the fugues without blurring their structure. Some of the minor key fugues in particular were most glorious in their intensity. She was also open to the other-worldly and mysterious aspects of Bach's art, bringing out the strange intense worlds which some of the fugues go into."
Frances Wilson wrote: "Ms Ishizaka eschewed the pedal throughout, though not through any wish to present a historically authentic performance. Rather, she did not need it: her superior legato technique created some exquisite cantabile playing, especially in the slow movements, while sprightly passagework and lively tempi gave the suggestion of the harpsichord in the rapid movements."
And Susan Moisan wrote: "Ishizaka confidently and with great style demonstrated the beauty of the flow, whilst maintaining the integrity of the separate pieces and captivating her audience so that they responded with a passion for the music that was plain to see and demonstrated by a standing ovation."
On the eve of the final concert in the Well-Tempered Clavier world tour, the CrossEyedPiano blog has posted an interview with Kimiko Ishizaka exploring her early influences and the connection between sports and music.
The inspiration to play piano came to me at the age of four when my mother first placed my tiny hands on the keyboard and pushed my fingers down with hers, thus teaching me the first piece I learned, the Minuet BWV 114 from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook, which at that time we still believed to be a piece by J.S. Bach. I say inspiration, but really it was a decision: a decision, that I would be a pianist, which was probably made before I was born.
Read the rest at CrossEyedPiano.com. Some tickets are still available for Wednesday's concert at the 1901 Arts Club, London.
Chopin's 24 Preludes, op. 28, are said to be inspired by Bach's own cycles through all of the major and minor keys. Audiences in Germany will have the chance to enjoy both works on the same program, three times in December 2012, and once in March 2013. The works are the newest addition to Kimiko Ishizaka's performance repertoire, and provide a rich, passionate, and virtuostic conclusion to the program that features a selection of preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Volume 1.
These performances are currently planned:
Kimiko Ishizaka's Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1, was reviewed in both Köln, Germany, and New York City.
The reviewer in Köln, Fritz Herzog writing for the General Anzeiger, called Kimiko the "exegete of Bach" (an expounder or interpreter of Bach), likened her performance to one by Sviatoslav Richter from deacades earlier, and said "Ishizaka vividly carves out the individual characteristics, contrasts, and relationships of the 48 pieces from the rather lyric sounding instrument and thus creates an understandable cyclic context that is far from sounding academically settled in.
"Mit musikalischer Sorgfalt arbeitet Ishizaka auf diesem eher lyrisch klingenden Instrument die jeweiligen Charakteristika, Bezüge und Kontraste der 48 Teile plastisch heraus und schafft so einen fern ab aller Akademik angesiedelten und nachvollziehbaren zyklischen Kontext."
After attending Kimiko's performance in the WMP Concert Hall in New York, James R. Oestreich, writing for the New York Times, called her "a gifted and obviously devoted Bachian", and added "Ms. Ishizaka kept things moving nicely and raised the energy level after intermission, occasionally rising to a touch of virtuosic flair, as in the A major Fugue, which she ended with a private little smile."
Kimiko Ishizaka's recording of J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations was released in May, 2012. It has since been reviewed numerous times. Here are some highlights:
Ishizaka's interpretation is characterised by straightforward musicianship, immaculate technical aplomb, and a warm, beautifully modulated sonority. Counterpoint passes back and forth between the hands in a conversational and judiciously balanced manner, while a strong lyrical impulse informs the cross-handed variations' rapid, bravura passages. --Jed Distler, Gramophone Magazine
She has the fleet fingers to speed through the virtuoso variations with compelling clarity and the sensitivity to probe the dramatic potential of the slower, more profound numbers, pleasurably aided by her consistently lovely tone. --Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare Magazine
... there is always a feeling of spontaneity and life in her performances; if anything, one feels that the pianist sees many of these variations almost like Baroque dance movements ... Variation 9, the canon at the third, and Variation 13 are both lovely examples of her style with its dips in dynamcs, subtle rubato, and slight ornamentation on the repeats, aspects that work in her performance because they all feel very natural. --Scott Noriega, Fanfare Magazine
The sound quality of the recording is top notch, which is a testament to both executive producer Anne-Marie Sylvestre's skill and the Teldex Studio's acoustics. It isn't too dry but the room's influence is deftly controlled. The sound isn't too bright either, which probably reflects the dark sound of the Bosendorfer piano. It makes the recording sound a tad tame on cheap headphones but allows top-notch stereo systems to play the album without brittleness.
In fact, the album's an audiophile gem. --Christopher Lim, The Business Times
Köln, 02.08.2012. Die Pianistin Kimiko Ishizaka, die aktuell mit der lizenzfreien Aufnahme von Bach's Goldberg Variationen die Musikwelt aufhorchen liess, hat heute ihr nächstes Projekt bekanntgegeben: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (BWV 846-893) von Johann Sebastian Bach, Buch 1. Auf einer fan-ﬁnanzierten Konzerttour in Europa und den USA wird die Künstlerin ihre Interpretation des Meisterwerkes einem ausgewählten Publikum vorstellen. Finanziert wird die Tour von Fans und Unterstützern über die crowd-sourcing Plattform Kickstarter.com, mit deren Hilfe bereits die aufwändige Neuaufnahme von Bach's Goldberg Variationen erfolgreich ermöglicht wurde, die die Künstlerin der Öffentlichkeit vor kurzem ohne Lizenzeinschränkungen frei zur Verfügung gestellt hat.
Read the full press release here.
See also: Medienecho - Stimmen aus der Fachwelt
From August 2012 to January 2013, Kimiko Ishizaka, the Open Goldberg Variations pianist, will perform Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, Volume 1, in six cities. To promote the concert series, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched. Backers will get early access to concert tickets as well as a copy of the exclusive "Best of the Tour" Digital Recording. Visit the Kickstarter project for more details and to order tickets.
The Business Times has reviewed the Open Goldberg Variations: http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/archive/saturday/lifestyle/entertainmentmusic/opening-goldberg
The full review is behind a paywall but here are the sentences I liked the most :-)
"Most importantly, the playing is excellent. Taken together with its no-cost availability and its reliance on a new freely available score, the Open Goldberg is now the obvious first stop for anyone approaching the Goldberg Variations for the first time."
"The sound quality of the recording is top notch"
"In fact, the album's an audiophile gem."