Maestro Masaaki Suzuki and his orchestra, Bach Collegium Japan, will play two concerts in Poland as part of the "Chopin and his Europe" festival in August. This is a big artistic event, because both Maestro himself and the orchestra he founded are widely known and admired in the world. They are famous not only for concerts, but also for recordings of works by Johann Sebastian Bach - the work done in this area is huge. And it is still going on: the next CD will be released by BIS Records in October 2019.
Władysław Rokiciński: You are coming to Poland in August, with your Bach Collegium Japan orchestra, for two concerts. The program of each of them includes a concerto composed by Frederic Chopin. Is it true that in Japan, Chopin's music is very popular?
Masaaki Suzuki: Yes, it is true. Chopin was also the favorite composer of my father, who was an amateur pianist, and played Chopin until the very end of his life.
Where does this interest in European classical music, as well as early music, come from in your country? Is this the aftermath of Japan's opening to the world in the Meiji era? Or, is openness just a feature of Japanese culture?
We, the Japanese have been very interested in foreign culture for centuries, but after the re-opening of the country in Meiji-era, European culture, including music, has developed a lot.
In your case, the family environment, its musical and religious traditions were probably of decisive importance for your development as a musician and conductor? Is it true that you as a boy used to play organ during masses in a Protestant church?
Yes, it is true. I started playing the organ in the church service when I was around 12 years old, but at that time we had only a small harmonium. Only a few years later I started studying the real pipe-organ.
In 1990, that is 29 years ago, you founded the Baroque orchestra, also a choir, which today enjoy worldwide fame. In its name you placed the name of Johann Sebastian Bach, a composer of the Baroque era, whom many consider to be an unrivaled master. Do you think so, too? And when did Bach appear in your life?
J.S. Bach has been at the center of my life since I began to play the organ, and is the point from which I see and appreciate other composers.
What you have done - in the field of recordings - with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is simply unbelievable: so many albums have already been released! Is this huge recording work still on and will it have a continuation? And what then are your next plans?
Having recorded all of Bach’s vocal works, we are now exploring later repertoire, like Mozart, Beethoven, and early Romantic composers. Meanwhile, I am still in the process of recording Bach’s solo works for harpsichord and organ.
You have conducted, in addition to Bach Collegium Japan, so many orchestras around the world, that one thinks about you and speaks primarily as a conductor. However you are also a musician, you play the harpsichord and the organ. How important is being a musician to you?
My honest feeling is that I am always and primarily an organist. But playing the organ and conducting an ensemble or orchestra are not very different jobs, I think they are quite similar from the viewpoint of music making, especially in terms of the polyphonic structure.
Family musical traditions have a continuation: your son is also a musician and it happens that you perform together, right? This must be nice for you.
Yes, I am very grateful that my son is working in the same field, and now succeeding me as the principal conductor of Bach Collegium Japan.
Will it be your first - and of your orchestra - stay in Poland? If so, what will you be mainly interested in in our country?
For me, this is the second time, but for our ensemble, the first time. We do know that Poland has a great history, and cultural heritage, so I hope we can find the time to experience this.
I wish you successful concerts and thank you very much for your time.
Polish version HERE
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