June 4, 2017


One of Tomoko's favorite composers and pianists is Chopin.

She likes to listen to his music because of its sensitive harmony. Tomoko considers Chopin to be very quiet sometimes. "He hardly touched the keyboard, but he was a good pianist." The fact that Chopin was a performer before he became a composer informed his writing. She also appreciates how Chopin incorporated folk music motifs. "The communal spirit of dance responds to the spirit of the music." She explains, "Music and dance are natural parts of human community celebrations such as weddings.” Tomoko recommends Chopin Opus 27 #2 as one of the best pieces for weddings.

Even starting out as a young piano student, Tomoko wanted to play Chopin, her her teacher said to her: "You are too young for Chopin; you have no experience.” Her teacher was referring to the emotional sophistication of Chopin, which requires the performer's own emotional experience to draw upon when interpreting the music. On the other hand, when Tomoko was asked why she assigned one of Chopin's difficult sonatas to a student of hers, she replied, "My student is so capable." She asserts: "Students need to be curious and courageous. How much they understand, we don’t know, but it’s better than to protect the student. They can always return to the piece later on, and bring in more interpretation based on their own lives. The technique is always there.”

In mentioning Chopin's emotional aspect, Tomoko reminds us that many compositions are written to express emotions, and are often written for someone special. "Chopin dedicated most of his pieces to someone." She explains further: “After you enjoy Chopin’s etude 25 #1 melody, you will enjoy the movie about him more. When you see the countess in the movie, well-dressed and peaceful, she will remind you of the etude, which he had dedicated to her."

Tomoko explored the life of Chopin directly. For instance, in the Chopin Museum, she played his raindrop Majorca prelude on their piano. Tomoko remembers how the place was positioned on the land; when she saw a movie about Chopin, it included an ocean in the background; “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.”

How does Chopin affect Tomoko?  She recalls, "After a doctors' conference in Cambridge, while they were cleaning up, I were downstairs and played Chopin. One of my husband's colleagues said: 'I didn’t know you played the piano." She muses, "People love music." For her part, Tomoko says, "Sometimes I feel so much pressure, but I have Chopin."

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