A frequent artist at RVIPW, Noriko Ogawa explains that festivals like ours are a perfect place to explore both ways in which musicians communicate; verbally and through music
Do you remember your first experience of RVIPW?
Yes, I do. It was in Blackburn at that time. I was told ‘Martin Roscoe’ organised the festival. I was not then familiar with the idea that ‘a famous pianist’ would ‘organize’ a whole festival, so, the festival had a big impact on me. Martin came to hear me which was a huge surprise, too. We went to a pub afterwards where lots of Martin’s friends gave him immediate feedback of the festival and threw ideas in his direction. I just watched them in amazement. Another occasion, Martin drove me back to the station. We had a chat about Alicia de Larrocha in the car. I still remember the colour of the shirt he was wearing then. I couldn’t believe ‘The Martin Roscoe’ was driving me in the car and how friendly and normal he was.
You play in many different countries at disparate venues these days, from vast international concert halls with audiences in their 1,000s to smaller, intimate theatres like ours. Can you tell us a bit about how these experiences vary?
I personally prefer intimate venues with individual audience to huge concert halls in a metropolis because I can feel how the theme of the festival or series came about more closely. I can also meet people who set up concerts directly which I so enjoy. I feel relaxed speaking to the audience from the piano at RVIPW in particular as I can feel very close to them. The audience at RVIPW are receptive to us performers which makes it so much easier.
How important are festivals like RVIPW to the cultural life of the UK?
It is simply amazing the festival is planned and organised by one of the top pianists in the country and a team of volunteers! It is a real mixture of being super-professional and truly-personal, which makes it all very unique and British!
How important are festivals like RVIPW in the development of a young musician’s career?
Well, I think I could be a good example??!! I arrived in the UK as a competitor and I am still here performing. RVIPW Directors always have their eyes wide open looking for young pianists with potential. Through Martin and Mike at RVIPW I met many wonderful people and colleagues who helped me grow my career as a performer. So, I can say “out loud”, festivals like RVIPW are very important for young pianists to further their career. Not only as ‘a concert date’, but also as an opportunity to see how concert ideas are born, how organisers discuss, book, more discussion, and come to reality. A young pianist can witness it all in real time before and during the festival. Lots to learn!
How do you go about selecting repertoire to play at events like RVIPW?
I was always given a gentle suggestion or two about what kind of repertoire I would play from Martin and Mike. Each festival has a theme or two, so, it is good to discuss what pieces can go on the programme each time. Mix and match from my repertoire list.
How long does it take you to prepare for a concert like this?
This all depends… some pieces that I keep performing regularly, I only need a few days. New pieces, it can take ages to get the hang of them. It really depends… I must not overestimate myself, that is what I have to remember each time. But I forget, of course! I am not British, so this means I am not a great sight-reader. I have to remember to add X-extra days to practise compared to my British pianist friends.
What did you think of the whole experience of coming to play for us ?
It is very nice and very special every time!
You have a great rapport with audiences, and seem genuinely to enjoy meeting the people who come to hear you play. How important is this aspect of your work as a musician?
It is true I enjoy meeting people, and that is just how I am made. I think it is important to get on with your colleagues at work, and being a musician is just the same. I am not very business minded by nature, so, it is good I deal with music. I could be a secretary from hell!!! We musicians have two ways to communicate, person to person verbally, and through music. Festivals like RVIPW are a perfect place for me to explore both sides.
You have played many times for us over the years. Is there a particular concert which stands out from the others as being a favourite?
Each time the festival has been kind to me. The concert with Martin was particularly good fun, I must say. We played Stravinsky where our arms cross and we bump into each other! I could feel the audience were holding their breath listening and watching. I felt they were completely, definitely on our side!
Tell us about your up and coming projects. Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline?
I am currently in the process of recording all Erik Satie piano music on an 1890 Erard piano. Playing concertos with Moscow Philharmonic, Dresden Symphony, NHK Symphony, and Tokyo Symphony this and coming seasons. I’m enormously loving the time I spend with students at Guildhall School of Music and Tokyo College of Music. I’ll be the chair of the jury at the 10th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2018. My work for ‘Jamie’s Concerts’ and The National Autistic Society is going strong which I am really so thrilled about. Endlessly jet-setting, though, I treasure quiet days at home with Philip my pianist partner and Sox-the-cat in London.