July 25, 2018

The Musicality of Salzburg

Tomoko and her husband Desy wanted to get married in his native country of Hungary, but it wasn’t safe for him so they decided to wed in Salzburg. And as Tomoko says, "I wanted to get married in Europe because I love Europe, especially Austria, and it was close enough to Hungary for my husband's sake." Musically, it was a wonderful choice. Here are a few reasons.

Probably the best known aspect of musical Salzburg is its annual festival, featured in the 1965 film Sound of Music.  The summer festival was officially established in 1920, and is held at Cathedral Square. Operas and dramas, orchestras and chamber music have all been performed at this festival. And this festival is just one of the many musical events that happen throughout the year in Salzburg.

There is a long tradition of music in Salzburg. The first opera performed north of the Alps happened in Salzburg – in 1617: Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo.” It was considered the first opera ever, and took place in a former quarry that was transformed into a rocky theater.  The opera tells the story of Orpheus and his descent into Hell to bring back his dead wife.

It might not be a surprise that Mozart was born in Salzburg: in 1756. He grew up there, and stayed in Salzburg until he was 25 years old. Two museums are now dedicated to Mozart, and the most extensive Mozart library in the world is in Salzburg.

Salzburg’s most famous Baroque building is the Salzburg Cathedral, where Mozart was baptized. As a court organist and concertmaster, he composed sacred music to be performed there. Tomoko’s wedding was held at St. Gilgen's, where Mozart's mother was baptized. It might well be that Tomoko could feel the spirit of Mozart, certainly of music, as she and Desy exchanged their wedding vows.

July 12, 2018

How do you spend your money?

Tomoko’s family invested money in both an organ and piano lessons for their children. Tomoko has continued that investment in her own pianos, and she lauds those who spend valuable funds on music for their families.

Tomoko asserts: “People who want piano are not average already.” She contends: “They don’t have to be rich, but they tend to be intelligent. They sacrifice to pay for lessons as well.” She continues, “Spending money on music is not like a vacation. Piano lessons are education. There is an investment and a responsibility." 

Therefore, Tomoko urges families to spend their money wisely. When it comes to piano teachers, she advises: “Check out the requirements for piano lessons. Find out about the teacher’s reputation. Try different teachers. There is no perfect teacher; it’s a matter of match between the teacher and the student.” She says to them: “You need to be prepared. Piano lessons and performance is not like other hobbies. You need to dedicate time every day.” 

Fiscal advice also applies to pianos. Tomoko encourages parents: “Go to a music store that sells pianos, and have the staff talk about, and demonstrate, the piano – and the pieces of music to choose from.” Tomoko knows that pianos can be expensive. “Be fussy in choosing the instrument,” she assets. “You need to have keen hearing and sensitivity to the touch.” Tomoko remembers when she bought her 1981 Steinway. “It was expensive, but it was an investment in my career.”

June 29, 2018

Tomoko's Movie Life

When Tomoko was a teenager she went to the movies every week – for free – because of her father’s business connections. Tomoko continues to enjoy movies for several musical reasons.
Tomoko’s own history has impacted her movie watching. For instance, Tomoko was a child during World War II, which was a very hard time for her and her family. So she was very reluctant to see the 2002 movie “The Pianist,” even though her friends said the piano music was worth the watch. The final piece that the main character played was one of Tomoko’s favorite: Chopin’s Grande Polonaise brillante. That piece redeemed the movie experience, although Tomoko also thought that the movie plot itself was also moving.

The 1990 movie “Green Card” also hit home for Tomoko because it addressed issues of immigration, which Tomoko experienced coming to the U.S. from Japan.  However, Tomoko did not need a marriage to stay in America; her professional experience tipped the scales and speeded up her naturalization. However, the movie did feature the music of another favorite composer of Tomoko: Mozart. Mentioning a more contemporary composer for the film, Tomoko remarks: “Enya's scores for that movie captured the essence of a river, waterfall, and storms. Music can imitate the sound of nature."

Another time, Tomoko saw a movie about Chopin: “A Song to Remember.” Having read about Chopin, and visited the Chopin Museum in Warsaw, Tomoko saw several errors in the film biography. For instance, his home was shown near the ocean; “That wasn’t real,” she asserts. Next door to his place was a monastery, instead, because of his asthma, which was not mentioned in the film. But you can still enjoy the music.” On the other hand, Tomoko says, “When you see the countess in the movie, well-dressed and peaceful, she will remind you of Chopin’s etude 25 #1 melody.” As a side note, Tomoko played Chopin’s raindrop prelude on the museum’s piano.

“Movie makers can interpret a scene so eloquently with music. Take the movie Madame Sousatska with Shirley MacLaine.” Tomoko has a strong connection with this film because it centers on piano teaching and learning, and includes almost twenty classical selections. Tomoko names a couple of her favorites: the Spinning Song of Mendelssohn and Scriabian’s Etude in D sharp minor no. 12. “Rubinstein performed that etude in Russian,” Tomoko says. “Their choice of music for the specific scene is amazing, such as Beethoven’s last movement from his Sonata in C major when the piano student arrives. Schubert’s Fantasy in F minor is played during the funeral, and the movie ends with Chopin, which is most fitting.”

Movie music fascination has been handed down to Tomoko’s daughter Beata. She recalls: “I obsessed about the movie ‘Amadeus.’ It was my secret life.  I listened to Mozart every night under cover.”  As a teenager, Beata didn’t want to be known as liking classical music. However, as an ice dancer, Beata shines when she performs to classical pieces.