August 3, 2019

The Sounds of Paris

Even as a child, Tomoko looked to Europe for musical inspiration. When Tomoko was in college, she loved to go to concerts when European musicians toured in Tokyo. “One day I will witness such performers in their home country,” Tomoko remembers saying to herself then
Tomoko’ own first European performance took place in Paris: at the Long-Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris, which promoted classical music. She admitted, “I feel a little guilty having such a good time here.” Tomoko wasn’t sure if she would ever have a chance to visit Europe again so she took every opportunity to see the sites of Paris.  

Tomoko isn’t the only musician to be inspired by Paris. Certainly, some of Tomoko’ favorite composers spent valuable time in the memorable city.

As a ten-year old protégé, Mozart gave recitals in the homes of wealthy Parisians. Later a local musical society commissioned his “Paris” Symphony No. 31. Unfortunately, most of Mozart’s time in Paris was not enjoyable, especially because his mother died there.

More than fifty years later, Chopin arrived in Paris and stayed for most of the rest of his life, even becoming a French citizen. He gave only thirty public performances because he preferred giving recitals in private salons where his intimate keyboard technique was better suited. Most of his income, though, came from giving private lessons and getting commissions to compose. 

Four years earlier than Chopin, Liszt moved from Vienna to Paris where he gave piano and composition lessons. Liszt stood out because of his virtuoso piano performance technique, but Chopin was sometimes annoyed that Liszt would embellish Chopin’s compositions when performing. Nevertheless, the two men were friends, and made joint appearances at several concerts. 

A generation later, Gabriel Fauré started studying classical music in Paris when nine years old; by his mid teens he was tutored by Saint-Saëns. Later in life, Fauré himself taught at the Paris Conservatoire; among his pupils was Ravel. The music of Mozart and Chopin greatly influenced him; over the years Fauré stylistically bridged romanticism and impressionism.

One of Tomoko’s 20th century admired composers is Francis Poulenc, who was actually born in Paris at the turn of the century. One of her set pieces that Tomoko performs is “Trois mouvements perpétuels,” which Poulenc composed as a teen on a local elementary school piano. 

The sounds of Paris have certainly influenced Tomoko.