The Waseda Symphony Orchestra Tokyo plays Strauss and Tchaikovsky
04 Mar 2018
Waseda Symphony Orchestra Tokyo
Overture to Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) (9 min.)
Symphonia domestica, op. 53 (45 min.)
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture after Shakespeare (20 min.)
Mono-Prism for Japanese drums and orchestra, op. 29 (41 min.)
Eitetsu Hayashi taiko, Fu-un no Kai
The Waseda Symphony Orchestra is one of the best student orchestras in the world. Its hallmarks are stupendous rhythmic precision, a fondness for difficult works, and the Taiko drummers who close every concert with a virtuoso drum piece. Its members are characterised by their outstanding instrumental abilities, great musicality and their unconditional love of music. There is only one thing they are not: future professional musicians. Rather, they study subjects such as law, economics, politics, literature and social sciences at the renowned Japanese Waseda University in Tokyo. However, the prerequisites to be admitted to the orchestra are of a professional standard: each member qualifies for a position by audition and must be willing to invest a lot of time in the intensive rehearsals.
Its long-time conductor Masahiko Tanaka sees to it that the high artistic standard of the orchestra is maintained. Since the mid-1970s there has been a friendship between the student orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker which has been carefully fostered by the Philharmoniker’s former cellist Rudolf Weinsheimer. Consequently, it is only natural that the Waseda Symphony Orchestra always stops off at the Berlin Philharmonie during its European tours. The last time it was here was in March 2015. This season, they play Otto Nicolai’s overture to the opera Die lustigen Weiber of Windsor, Richard Strauss’s Symphonia domestica and Piotr Illych Tchaikovsky’s fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet. The finale and highlight of the concert is Maki Ishii’s Mono-Prism for Japanese drums and orchestra.
Masahiko Tanaka, honorary president and conductor of the Waseda Symphony Orchestra, was born in Tokyo in 1935. He studied economics at Waseda University and played double bass in the Waseda Symphony Orchestra. He later became a member of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and continued his double bass training under Rainer Zepperitz at the then Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. Masahiko Tanaka was a lecturer at the Toho-Gakuen Music School, a member of the NHK Symphony Orchestra board, and a jury member at many international double bass competitions. As a soloist and chamber musician, he has recorded numerous records and CDs. Thanks to his hard work and preparation for the 1978 International Youth Orchestra Competition in Berlin, the Waseda Symphony Orchestra was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Gold Medal. Karajan, then chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, expressed his sincere appreciation for Tanaka’s commitment to the youth orchestra which over the decades since it was founded has contributed greatly to international cultural exchange, understanding and peace in the world. Masahiko Tanaka also conducted the Waseda Symphony Orchestra when it last appeared at the Philharmonie in early March 2015.
The Waseda Symphony Orchestra Tokyo was founded in 1913 at Waseda University in Tokyo, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Japan – which nevertheless does not have a music faculty. The approx. 300 members of this large orchestra study philosophy, literature, law or science. They all have one thing in common: a love of music. The Waseda Symphony Orchestra Tokyo is one of the world’s best international youth and university orchestras. In 1978, it was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Gold Medal at the International Youth Orchestra Competition in Berlin. A year later, Karajan, who was very devoted to the young musicians, received an honorary doctorate from the university and to mark the occasion of the award ceremony, conducted a public rehearsal in the Okuma Hall of Waseda University. Many world famous conductors such as Seiji Ozawa, Kenichiro Kobayashi, Hiroyuki Iwaki, Leonard Slatkin and Giuseppe Sinopoli have also performed with the Waseda Symphony Orchestra, which to date has done 14 international tours with over 170 concerts and is now celebrating guest appearances in Europe’s most famous concert halls for the 15th time. The orchestra has already performed several times in the Berlin Philharmonie, most recently in March 2015 with works by Richard Strauss and Maki Ishii; the conductor was Masahiko Tanaka.
Eitetsu Hayashi, born in Hiroshima in 1952, began his musical career in 1971 as a founding member and leader of the soon internationally renowned taiko groups “Ondekoza” and “Kodo”. As the first taiko soloist, who arranged the traditional Japanese instruments in the manner of a drum set, he created a new kind of solo performance from 1962. He developed revolutionary drum techniques and combined the traditional taiko art with influences from Western classical music, jazz and rock. In 1984, Eitetsu Hayashi appeared as the first taiko drummer ever with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York. Since then, he has performed worldwide, working with artists such as African percussionist Mamady Keïta and jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita. Eitetsu Hayashi’s solo appearances include with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and – at the Waldbühne concert in June 2000 – with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Kent Nagano. In 1997, the musician, who is also an active producer, composer, conductor and educator, was honoured with the Japanese “Ministry of Education Award”; in 2001, he received the Japan Arts Foundation’s “Award for Promotion of Traditional Japanese Culture”. Since 2004, Eitetsu Hayashi teaches as a visiting professor at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music in Kawasaki and, since 2005, at Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1995, he founded the Taiko group Eitetsu Fu-un no Kai, which accompanies him on his tours and also appears as an independent formation at festivals such as the Japan-Korea Music Festival.