Japan’s proud Chopin finalist has died, at 72

Hiroko Nakamura was the first Japanese to finish among the final six at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, placing fourth in 1965 behind Martha Argerich, Arthur Moreira Lima and Marta Sosinska.

Her achievement was hugely celebrated back home and the NHK Symphony Orchestra took her on its first world tour. Married to the distinguished writer Kaoru Shoji, she went on to direct the Hamamatsu piano competition.

Hiroko died on July 26 of colonic cancer.

hiroko nakamura

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  • Such a refreshing and modest interpretation. Nice to hear the sparse but poetic cadenza version. Vastly superior to the simian posturing and thundering, salvating rhetoric showcased in today’s nauseating high-profile “piano competitions”.

  • Norman, the article is not accurate. The first Japanese to finish as a finalist, and the winner of tenth prize at International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, was Kiyoko Tanaka (1932-1996). She won the 10th prize at in 1955.

    This is the live recording of Tanaka’s Chopin Competition performance.
    Etudes Op. 25-3, 6, 8 (1955):

    Tanaka is also the first Japanese prize winner of Concours international Marguerite-Long-Jacques-Thibaud (1953) and Geneva International Music Competition (1952, top prize). Tanaka, active in most of Europe, retired from performing career in 1970 from severe autoimmune disease, but continued teaching in Japan.

    • Strictly speaking, the term ‘finalist’ applies to the last six, as I understand it. Hiroko was acclaimed as such in Japan. But I am grateful for your information and have made a slight adjustment.

      • Kyoko Tanaka was indeed a finalist in 1955 – there appear to have been 10 that year. In the final she played the E minor concerto.

      • Actually, by way of further clarification/ correction, there are even today more finalists than prizewinners. Last year, for instance, Cho, Richard-Hamelin, Liu, Lu, Yang, Shishkin, Jurinic, Kobayashi, Nehring and Osokins were the 10 finalists, but only the first 6 were awarded prizes.

        • I do not know the work of this pianist, but Kiyoko Tanaka, mentioned about, is one of the most elegant, musical pianists I know of. Her F major Nocturne from Op. 15, is one of my treasured recordings. I wish she had recorded more.

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