| Rieko Aizawa is the final performer of the winter Sun Valley Artist Series. Courtesy photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Musical instruments were clearly made to give the meek in appearance the booming presence that their outer shell betrays.
Piano virtuoso Rieko Aizawa is a wisp of a woman, with moon-colored skin strikingly contrasted by her black waves of hair. When she walks onto a stage to sit before an ebony grand piano, she seems overpowered—until she plays.
When she plays, it’s clear that she summons every inch of her lithe form to emote from her fingertips, in a range from subtle and graceful to assertive.
The result has been described as poetic while technical, rich and personal.
On Tuesday, April 9, Aizawa will perform as a guest of the Sun Valley Artist Series at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.
Aizawa will chat with guests for about 45 minutes before her performance at 7 p.m.
SVAS Artistic Director Susan Dunning said Aizawa will present a stellar recital that will include works by Ibert, Beethoven, Chopin and Grieg.
Dunning will have her own concert piano delivered to the church for Aizawa. She said the facility is a fabulous place for chamber music because of its outstanding acoustics and seating for up to 400.
Praised by the New York Times for her “impressive musicality, a crisp touch and expressive phrasing,” Aizawa has performed in solo and orchestral engagements throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall and Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
Aizawa was discovered at 13 and has since performed in many North American cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Seattle, Boulder, Los Angeles, Houston and Toronto. She has appeared at the Caramoor International Festival, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Ravinia Festival and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Following a recent all-Beethoven recital in Dresden, Germany, a reviewer wrote, “Her listeners followed her playing—full of details and delicate contrasts—breathlessly.”
She recently has started a “Prism” series in Japan, with tributes to Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann, and specially commissioned works for each program. She also will continue her exploration of Beethoven’s music with a Beethoven cycle at Rutgers University in New Jersey. In 2006, Aizawa performed a series of all-Mozart recitals, a project jointly presented by WFMT-Chicago and Fazioli.
An avid chamber musician, Aizawa is a founding member of Horszowski Trio, as well as the prize-winning ensemble Duo Prism. She became
artistic director of the Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival in Colorado in 2010.
Aizawa received her master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where she worked with Peter Serkin. She is also a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was awarded the prestigious Rachmaninoff Prize and studied with Seymour Lipkin, Peter Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski as his last pupil. March 2005 marked the release of Aizawa’s first solo recording on the Japanese label Altus Music—a tour-de-force CD of Shostakovich’s and Scriabin’s “24 Preludes.” Her second solo CD, of Faure’s and Messiaen’s preludes, came out in 2012.
Aizawa lives in New York City and is on the faculty at Longy School of Music of Bard College and Montclair State University in New Jersey.
The Steinway artist returned from India a few days ago. Get to know her a bit better through her responses to questions from the Idaho Mountain Express.
IME: You were discovered at 13, but when did you begin playing?
When I was 5 years old. I was living in Japan, and my friend had started lessons, so I decided to sign up too.
Was there a genetic component of musical talent in your family?
My aunt teaches piano to kids, but I didn’t study with her. Other than that, I’m the only musician.
At what point did you know that this was more than just a skill, but a destiny?
When I went to the Marlboro Festival for the first time (I was 13), I realized that this was my true passion. Working with wonderful legendary musicians such as Rudolf Serkin and Felix Galimir was very inspiring. I played so much chamber music there, and making music as an equal to all the participants, regardless of age, was something I’d never experienced in Japan. It was a truly great learning experience.
What are you thinking about when you play?
I draw my inspiration from the composers of the pieces I play. I want to be the best possible messenger of the composer’s voice to the audience.
Three adjectives that describe the feeling when you play?
I’d like to answer with nouns, instead: Focus, Joy, and Color
Are you ever in the position to have to discourage hopefuls from a career?
I believe that everyone goes through ups and downs, and that’s a part of the life. I take all the good and tough times as a learning experience.
It’s increasingly challenging to get kids and instruments together. Those beautiful, large concert instruments were always so alluring, enticing many of us who never could play to try just to be able to touch them. Today, pianos have been reduced to the smallest possible unit to fit in
today’s lifestyles, is that helping or hurting the draw?
It is always a good thing when kids feel that they can access all kinds of musical instruments easily, to connect to music. I believe that it helps them become interested in music and in arts in general, naturally.
What will you be doing when you come to Sun Valley, on stage, and off?
I will be giving a master class, a small educational performance at the Community School, a performance for patrons etc. I think I’ll be pretty busy besides the recital on the 9th with not much free time. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to take in the natural beauty of the environment, since this will be my first time visiting Sun Valley. I hope so; I’ve heard such wonderful things.
For more information about Sun Valley Artist Series or to purchase tickets, visit www.svartistseries.org or call 725-5807.
The Sun Valley Artist Series is an Idaho nonprofit organization devoted to the promotion and encouragement of the art of classical music. Its mission is to enhance the cultural life of this community by presenting a series of quality music concerts each year, bringing international performing artists to the valley to play in an intimate setting. The concerts encourage classical music appreciation for both children and adults, providing an opportunity for audiences to interact with musicians and attend affordable concerts.
How to hear Rieko Aizawa:
Individual tickets are $24. Student tickets are $10 at the door. Purchase tickets at local Ketchum bookstores, or online at www.svartistseries.org.