"The music that sprang from Aimi’s small body, it seemed like God had come down . . . ”
Recital at Yamano Hall, Nagoya, 25th October 2009
(Aimi’s first professional appearance as a solo recitalist)
Chopin, Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53, “Héroïque” (on YouTube here)
Chopin, Waltz no. 14 in E minor, Op. posth. (on YouTube with the Mazurka — see link above)
Chopin, Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60
Chopin, Scherzo no. 1 in B minor Op. 20
Played as encores: Chopin Nocturne no. 20 and Etude Op. 10 no. 4
(For info on YouTube postings from the recital, see this note at the bottom of the page)
Background — or How Aimi was Invited to Tea ; )
IT ALL BEGAN with my web pages on Aimi. I needed help as I don’t know Japanese. Then I had a brainwave — maybe my cousin Paul and his wife Hiroko could help. Paul has lived and taught and done business in Japan for as long as I can remember.
So in early 2009 I emailed him and sent a couple of YouTube links, one of which was the famous Coronation concerto. I’m sure the other was the incredible Impromptu no. 1 played in Moscow on Christmas Eve 2006. Paul replied to say that they were just off on holiday — he’s always dashing off somewhere — and he’d take a look when they were back. They’d never heard of Aimi.
Long silence . . .
About three weeks later there was an email from Japan. Paul and Hiroko had watched the videos and were totally stunned, speechless, almost in tears afterward. Did I know Aimi’s agent, Paul asked, as he would really like to invite her to play at one of his tea concerts. I didn’t know about these concerts, and Paul explained that they were occasional but fairly regular events sponsored by his tea-importing company. They were held in a small private music hall in a semi-rustic location in the hills just east of Nagoya. After each concert performers and audience enjoyed a slap-up English “tea” of cream-loaded scones, cakes — and, of course, lots of top-quality teas to sample.
I could hardly believe this was happening! At the time Aimi didn’t have an agent, so I told Paul I’d put him in touch with Tom Wierzbicki, who knows Aimi’s teacher, Mrs Ninomiya. Tom, a professor and head of department at MIT, is a big fan of Aimi and has done a lot to promote her, particularly in his native Poland. To cut a long story short, I found myself writing up a proposal and, after what felt like interminable weeks, we had a positive reply. They would come!
It seems that Aimi and Mrs Ninomiya really enjoyed their visit to Nagoya, and that Aimi found the intimate surroundings and contact with an enthusiastic, sympathetic audience to be a rewarding experience. I am delighted to hear that they have said they’d like to come back.
So, on to the reports . . .
Left and middle: During the performance. Yamano Hall is not large and the atmosphere is quite intimate! Right: The audience gives Aimi a standing ovation after the recital. The piano is a very nice Bösendorfer.
First some email responses that came in immediately after the recital. I reproduce them exactly as forwarded by Paul:
“Thanks for Aimi's concert. It’s marvelous. I’m very impressed and almost cried.”
“I'm perfectly content with your Tea party and Aimi’s concert. I was so moved for her playing the piano. I was feeling like tripping another world because her performance touched my heart. Thank you for everything.”
“Aimi’s playing was amazing and I was so moved that I got goose bumps during the concert. After the concert I had a chance to talk with her a little, then I was surprised that she was so sweet. I maybe saw her true face, not as a talented pianist but young girl. She played my favorite Chopin number, Heroic.”
Paul had to dash off to a staff party after the recital (they had their own nosh-up later in the evening), and after finally getting home at a very late hour he emailed his own impressions of the afternoon:
“Everything went amazingly well — Aimi’s fingers were pure liquid on the keyboard. She played the pieces in the order as shown in the programme; . . . Aimi was humming along, singing, breathing deeply in time with the music; it added positively to the overall effect.
The applause was thunderous, and she’s made a great many friends in Aichi. After the concert, she mingled with all the guests and signed a great many programmes. She’s as charming off stage as she is powerful and expressive on it. We are hoping to invite her back next year.”
And later he added: “We feel as though we’ve changed the world!” Well, yes, that’s how exciting a performance by Aimi can be.
We have just two bloggers’ write-ups, one very short, but together they do give an idea of the excitement Aimi generates. I am grateful to Rebecca Starr for the translations.
Blogger: Sometimes Mom
url for this blog: http://ameblo.jp/p-maho/entry-10373397743.html
Profile: Piano teacher, parent and working Mum with a passion for the piano.
Today was a very memorable day for a daily update! So rare!
I think it was very exciting. As you can see from the title, you probably won’t be surprised — today, in a little salon in the mountains, I saw a concert by Aimi Kobayashi. How did it come to be in Aichi prefecture?
Paul, an Englishman who researches Old English, whom I have mentioned previously on the blog, sponsored the “tea concert.” Paul jointly manages a tea company with a Japanese partner. In the past he used to study English with musician friends, so they came up with this tea concert plan to promote the tea. We went to the first five concerts, but after my son was born I couldn’t go out enough, and there have been 15 concerts since then. Paul emails me from time to time about them.
Then, one day, a message from Paul: “Something amazing has happened! Somehow Aimi Kobayashi is going to do a tea concert!” I was so surprised when that email came! She is a well-known girl prodigy, who I had heard had begun her worldwide debut. I said “ehh??” and was very excited.
I sent a reply, “Some of us will go, please give me five tickets for now!” Then my students spoke to those who knew about Aimi Kobayashi, and they said, “We want to go!!” — and so we also had a waiting list.
The little salon has only 80 seats. The “mountain hall” is truly in the middle of the mountains and is full of a wonderful natural atmosphere. It also has a small kitchen, so you can serve tea and refreshments. Since the concerts started, Paul has always arranged them at the mountain hall. With only 80 seats, of course they sold out very quickly. I went to enjoy this really luxurious space.
The music that sprang from Aimi’s small body, it seemed like God had come down. It was on a large scale, and from the beginning it drew you in.
Her touch was colorful, and no matter how fast [she played] the detailed sounds still had feeling. The excitement was extraordinary.
Looking at her breathing, touch, use of arms, and everything from close range, I could see in front of my eyes that she is going to be big. Well, that’s what I was thinking as I listened. Honestly, it would be amazing if anyone wasn’t thinking the same thing.
At the tea party [afterward], she was a normal middle school girl, she talked a lot. She had cute answers to every question and gave everyone an enjoyable time.
url for this blog: http://ameblo.jp/mayuchiku/entry-10372556519.html
Profile: Choir leader.
Aimi Kobayashi Piano Recital and Afternoon Tea
I went to a cute concert hall called “Mountain Hall” in Nisshin City, Aichi prefecture. I went to see the performance of girl piano prodigy Aimi Kobayashi. It was really wonderful. The expressive power of the music radiated from her body.
Today’s concert was enjoyable enough in itself, but I also wanted to go experience the after-concert English-style tea party. The sponsor was a teacher at Nagoya University who also runs a tea company, so they organized the concert and tea party.
Marilou’s blog is perhaps mainly interesting for a series of photos taken at the event.
Some More Photos
Our concert guests arrived the day before and stayed at the Marriott Hotel. In the evening Paul, Hiroko and son Alex took them out for supper at a local restaurant. Aimi, speaking mostly in Japanese but also trying out some English, was very forthcoming, and the conversation was interesting for the light it threw on the conditions under which she has to practice and perform. The main problem is that like Alex, who’s a little younger, she is coming near the end of the junior high school stage of her education, which is very demanding.
Only a day or so after Nagoya the pair sped off to Korea, where Aimi took part in a competition. On returning from that she remarked about some exams she then had to take: “I couldn’t answer any of the questions!”
Aimi and Yuko with specially preserved flowers which last forever!
Aimi with Paul and Masanori — the M&P’s Tea team who put the concert on
With Alex, Paul’s son, and helpers Uday (left) and Satoko (right)
Aimi and Alex
How does she do it? After the recital Aimi’s magic hands were examined by friendly concertgoers for some clue to her amazing keyboard abilities. When did a performer last let you do that at a concert?!
Photos below: Left, displaying her capacity for ferocious concentration during the first run of rising arpeggios at the beginning of the Scherzo no. 1; Right, signing programs afterward; and Below: taking applause after a very spirited performance of the Polonaise héroïque.
Our video of the reception is on YouTube here: Aimi’s Tea Party.
And, finally, the programme . . .
. . . Even as I was photographing it I saw the typo on page 2 — in the 2004 entry “Huper” should be Hupfer, as you all know.
As the programme says, Paul and I owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Wierzbicki for his generous sponsorship contribution. I don't know exactly how many seats the hall has (80 or 95), but, whatever, the box office takings are too small to cover the costs of an event like this. Patrick Tabet made a generous private contribution which must certainly have helped to make Aimi feel it was worthwhile coming all the way from Tokyo (by Shinkansen, the bullet train) to play at this tiny venue in the wooded hills above Nagoya. Thank you Tom and Patrick.
Rebecca Starr, who provided the translations on this page, is the granddaughter of a long-time contact and Aimi fan, Hal Stein, who lives in Sacramento, California. Hal tells me she knows Mandarin and Cantonese as well as Japanese!
As of January 2011, videos of the Waldstein sonata, the Mazurka and Waltz and the Polonaise héroïque have been posted on YouTube (see the Program at the top of this page for links).
The Scherzo no. 1 has been seen many times as there are several performances by Aimi already on YouTube. I have no plans to put up another. She played it very well, as you would expect of a piece that’s been in her repertoire for some time.
The situation with Barcarolle remains undecided. Aimi also played this very well, but it has been argued by some expert judges whose opinions I could not possibly doubt that this early performance should not be posted. The reasons have nothing to do with the standard of playing, which was excellent, but with the understanding and interpretation of the piece.
The two encores, the Nocturne no. 20 and Etude 10.4, have also been seen many times and I have no plans to add the Nagoya performances to YouTube! They were, of course, simply beautifully played.
Other archived pages:
www.godsownclay.com — powered by owls
Yamano Hall (Hall of the Mountain), Nisshin City, near Nagoya. (Photo from the Hall’s website)