What an amazing country – they all seem to love classical music, eat the most delicious food, but hardly anybody speaks any European language and you feel completely lonely and, indeed, pretty much lost. If it wasn’t for the nice pictures in the menues of a restaurant, I would have to order my food without knowing what is going to be served. I haven’t been to Japan in some years, and I had forgotten how isolated one tends to feel in a city of the size of Tokyo with soooo many people and nobody to connect to.Actually I should try to get at least 4 hours to sleep before the car picks me up to the airport, but too many thoughts are flying around in my little brain, and since I hate wasting time being awake in bed (which hardly ever happens – if I only see a bed I normally fall asleep) I’d rather write something about my “Trip to Asia” before returning home into a frenzy, not being able to even think clearly anymore. I just finished my one and only concert here in Japan, with a really amazingly well playing orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic, and I can only say, the prejudice that Asian people can’t feel “our” music is more than wrong. I was deeply impressed not only how well they accompanied me in the original version of the Rococo Variations which I played here for the first time (dangerous piece that…) but their rendition of the 11th Symphony by Shostakovich was very moving.
This was also thanks to the lesser known Russian Maestro Nikolai Alexeev who didn’t do any bullshit, every move had an immediate effect, no showmanship whatsoever but very genuine music making. Still the energy with which this orchestra, consisting to probably 95% of Japanese musicians, played this dark and highly emotional music was completely convincing and authentic. The other day I had the discussion with an American promoter who said that I was lucky to be German because I understood how to play the European music versus people from elsewhere. I contradicted this person vehemently because I have experienced before that a good musician is not a good musician because of his nationality but because of a rather complicated mix of genes, talent, upbringing and pure work-ethics. My best example is always my friend Cecile Licad from the Philippines who plays the piano like hardly anybody else in this world – from her I learned how to play Beethoven, not from any German person, but from a Philippina (?) who happened to have studied with Rudolf Serkin and also Mieczeslav Horszowski.
But still, she is “Asian” so how come she can play Beethoven? Because this music is universal, and that’s the amazing thing about it – you don’t have to speak or be German to understand one of the greatest German composers. It’s the prove that music indeed does not know borders, but we have bad and good musicians all over the world, of all colours, races and genders, and to believe that we Germans know better what to do with German music is pure arrogance and/or ignorance. Rather the opposite: I sometimes feel that the people have to much respect of “their”composers, and that somebody with an “outside view” tends to come closer to the truth and to the essence of what these national heroes actually wanted (same for French, Russian or English composers and their musicians…).
Before Japan I spend a delicious few days in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian Philharmonic (consisting to about 6 % of Malaysian musicians), doing the Haydn D Major. Delicious – because the food was just out of this world! I was just in heaven the whole time, over-eating every single meal because it tasted so good. How these concerts went? No idea, it’s all blocked out, as I wrote before, I don’t really have the brain to memorize the quality of my playing – fact is I try to live and play in the moment, and once the moment is over, I try to enjoy the next one. That makes it hard to actually get a genuine picture of how “good” a performance went. I would know if I listened to a recording after the concert, but there weren’t any, and even if, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to do it, out of fear that I could hear something I don’t like at all. Yes, i know, I should do it, and once in a while I dare, but I don’t tell you what I think while listening… 🙂
While waiting for my late-night flight from Malaysia to Japan I practiced in my hotel room overlooking the Petronas Twin Towers, formerly the highest buildings in the world, very impressive, and at the bottom they had their little Olympic Torch Party with thousands of people waving Chinese flags, screaming and jumping up and down. I love sports and I used to love Olympic Games, but in the past 12 years I somehow fell out of interest for it, and I know now why: it is this incredible hype surrounding these sport events which turn me off them. Besides the fact that I don’t care much about flag waving (remind me of bad times in Germany I guess) I don’t really understand how a country can get in such a nationalist state of mind about a completely overvalued sports event. And I don’t want to become political now, but why do all these politicians get involved, threatening not to join the probably really boring (flag-waving again) opening ceremony because of a region which is being treated the same way since some hundred years (not really well, I guess, but how well does the govermment treat their farmers and the rest of the poor population – it’s a huge country and many people suffer) – and then the Chinese population gets all furious and boycotts some French supermarket. Completely out of proportion, as if we haven’t any real problems on this planet. And this is why I don’t care about the Olympic Games anymore – commercialized beyond believe, and a hysteria is being created which has absolutely nothing to do with the beauty of sports. Same for worldcups or championsleague in soccer – the hype is unbelievable and in the long run very damaging to the idea of games. They should be enjoyable, not wars. Oh – maybe that’s what we are having instead of wars – well, then I take everything back: I prefer hyped up Olympic Games over wars any time, but I will still not be watching (as if they care 🙂 )