Tonight's concerts in the Tokyo earthquake zone

Tonight's concerts in the Tokyo earthquake zone


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2011

When the earth shook in Tokyo this afternoon, there were two orchestral concerts scheduled for the evening. 

The Japan Philharmonic Symphony was playing at Suntory Hall with chief conductor Alexander Lazarev a programme of Stravinsky’s violin concerto (soloist Yano Ryoko) and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suite. Not much is known to me of this event except that, despite a paralysis of public transport. it went ahead without incident.

The New Japan Philharmonic, with guest conductor Daniel Harding, were performing Wagner’s Parsifal prelude, followed by Mahler’s fifth symphony at Sumida Triphony Hall. Barely 50 people managed to attend out of an expected 1,800 but Harding reported a ‘wonderful atmosphere’, with one elderly man walking four hours across town to get there.
Daniel Harding
Getting home was another matter. The orchestral musicians bedded down on the floor of the concert hall, unable to get home. The conductor was driven back to his hotel at snail’s pace, covering five kilometres in two hours. He posted a picture of the traffic jams taken from his bedroom window

and settled down to watch England play cricket on the telly against Bangladesh.
Spirit of the Blitz? Alive and well.
Tomorrow’s concert will go ahead, public transport permitting.


  • Rob Weir says:

    I have been following the ongoing situation in Brazil and have had extensive communication with many directly involved including my friends and colleagues Ole Bohn and Alex Klein. From my remote location here in San Francisco I have felt a sense of frustration that I was not “on the ground” with my colleagues and those in Rio. I am, however, able to remain active and up to date in large part due to this terrific blog, Mr. Lebrecht. Thank you for it. It has come to light that a great aid and influence in the mediation of an amenable solution to this mess may have literally landed within my grasp just the other day. As a musician of the San Francisco Symphony, I am presently having the pleasure of working with the great and good man Maestro Kurt Masur. He is currently in town this week conducting the San Francisco Symphony in a program of Mendelssohn with my orchestra. I have long been a great admirer of his dating back to the late 80’s when I was first working with the orchestra and he as a guest conductor. This relationship has flourished and continued for all these years and I am the better for it. Throughout the course of this strife in Brazil I learned that Maestro Masur has had a long and close relationship with Roberto Minczuk, the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil. I felt that a great opportunity had presented itself for me to perhaps open a dialogue with Maestro Mazur with the hope of encouraging him to assist Mr. Minczuk in exploring a more common ground with respect to the musicians in his Brazilian orchestra. Yesterday he, Maestro Masur, and I spoke briefly about the problems that exist there and he was attentive, sympathetic and promised that he and I would have further discussions over the next couple of days while he is in San Francisco. I will be providing him with updates as I get them from my friends and colleagues in Rio and thereby keep him fully “in the “loop”. I must say that I am filled with great optimism that his interest, as expressed to me, in becoming involved in this regrettable situation and ongoing strife in Brazil, coupled with his legendary skills as a diplomat, humanitarian and re-conciliator will do much to provide a steadying hand and, possibly, much needed mediator for those involved. I have no doubt and trust that the voice of his great wisdom and experience will not be unheard, too, by the ears of Mr. Minczuk. My colleagues around the musical world are looking with keen interest to a favorable outcome and emergence from this chaotic environment and a resumption of great music making in Rio by all who contribute so much to that rich and vibrant place. We hope to see the kind of steady and seamless growth that can occur there, but only under an umbrella of mutual respect for the lives of those involved and in the service of this great art form that we all so humbly have the privilege to participate. I know that Mr. Minczuk will want to be remembered and recognized as a builder and restorer of a proud institution. One that is nurtured slowly and with great care with the tools he has been given through his own musical ability, the abilities of those already in service to that institution, and through the great grace of those who have made it financially possible for managed and responsible growth to take place. In writing this I realize that I have just described the man I mentioned earlier! Maestro Kurt Masur. Oh what a role model and mentor you have to emulate, Roberto. You are a lucky man indeed! Don’t let your opportunity to send a message to the vast community of musicians who are tuned in to hear where your leadership will take things in Rio, be influenced and, in the end, squandered by poor choices, actions, and a deficit of compassion. This can only say to us that any future meanigful collaboration with you might be tainted and, I regret to say, virtually impossible. I know you will follow your leaders and advisors along with your well searched heart and, ultimately, do what is right and good.
    My very best regards to you, Mr. Minczuk, and to your colleagues in Rio.
    Rob Weir
    The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    San Francisco, California

  • We had a little excitement here in Tokyo yesterday, with small things falling, including our wall clock. But the real damage, serious enough, was in other parts of Japan. In Tokyo we were without gas and admonished to conserve electricity, and trains and subways were in disarray. We had one of the musicians here for the night, as there was no transport home and the hotels were all full.
    But things are getting back to normal, thank God. It makes one appreciate just how lucky we are. We’ll be back to our normal schedule of rehearsals for Friday’s Tchaikovsky Serenade at Oji Hall (Mozartiana, Rococo Variations, and Winter Daydreams).
    Robert Rÿker
    Music Director
    Tokyo Sinfonia

  • […] was in Japan during the crisis and, as I reported then, tried to rally other artists to remain. He pledged to return and has made good his promise. […]