Natural disasters, alas, are not new to Japan, and the Sanriku coast in the north east of Japan, which is currently reeling under the effects of latest earthquake and tsunami has seen tsunami with depressing regularity throughout its history. A particularly devastating one occurred in the early days of the Kôda sisters’ career, on 15 June 1896 Case Details > The Great Meiji Sanriku Tsunami (in fact another major Sanriku tsunami occurred in their lifetime, in 1933). The highest wave in 1896 is said to have reached over 38 metres - which makes one wonder, why about claims that the scale of the present disaster was unprecedented and therefore not to be expected – and over 22, 000 lives were lost.
But while tsunami were not new in Meiji Japan, public concerts were an innovation, including charity concerts. The Kôda sisters did not play for fees, but they did play for money in a good cause. Both of them took part in a charity concert by the Tokyo Academy of Music’s alumni organization, the Dôseikai less than a month after the 1896 tsunami. The programme, printed in English as well as Japanese, was as follows:
RELIEF OF SUFFERERS BY THE LATE TIDAL WAVE.
UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF
His Excellency Marquis KINMOCHI SAIONJI.
NOBUAKI MAKINO Esq. JIGORO KANÔ Esq.
On Saturday, July, 4th 1896.
THE ACADEMY OF MUISC,
TO BEGIN AT 3 P.M.
Tickets may be obtained at the door.
1. Chorus with Accompaniment:
a. “HOME IS SAD WITHOUT MOTHER.” Webster.
b. “AUF DEM SEE” Mendelssohn
The Students of the Academy.
2. Piano Solo:
ANDANTE. (from sonata Op. 14 No. 2) Beethoven
Mr. Kiûhachi Mayeda
3. Two-part Songs:
a. “VOLKSLIED” Mendelssohn
b. “ABSCHIEDSLIED DER ZUGVOGEL.“ “
Misses K. Uchida, F. Suzuki, C. Hayashi and Kôda [Kô]
4. Violin solo:
a. “CAVATINA.” Raff.
b. “PERPETUUM MOBILE.” Bohm.
Miss Nobu Kôda.
5. Chorus with Accompaniment:
a. “CHARITY” Glover.
b. “DEUTSCHLAND” Mendelssohn.
The Students of the Academy.
6. Koto Music:
Messrs. Yamase and Imai
7. Piano (8 hands):
MINUETTO Vincenzo de Meglio.
Misses K. Yui, T. Uyehara, K. Tsukakoshi and O. Suzuki.
8. Song with Violin and Piano Accompaniment:
Misses C. Hayashi and K. Kôda, Violin, Accompaniment by K. Tanomogi
9. Piano Solo:
“THE BROOK.” Willie Pape.
Miss Kine Tôyama.
10. Violins with Piano Accompaniment:
a. NOCTURNE Field
b. “MOMENT MUSICAL” Schubert.
11. Chorus with Accompaniment:
The Students of the Academy.
12. Koto Music:
Messrs. Yamase, Imai, Hagioka and Yamamuro
(Source: Tôkyô Geijutsu Daigaku hyakunenshi hensan iinkai, ed. Tôkyô Geijutsu Daigaku hyakunenshi: Ensôkai hen 1. Tokyo: Ongakunotomosha, 1990, pp. 35-38.)
The concert featured both Western and Japanese music, a practise the Academy abandoned a few years later. Tanomogi Koma (1874 – 1936), although she appears as a pianist in this programme, actually taught the violin at the Academy from 1894 to 1928. Her name is even less known than that of the Kôdas; she was the daughter of a craftsman and never had the chance to study abroad. Kôda Nobu had returned from Europe the year before, and her younger sister Kô graduated a week after the charity concert; at the graduation concert on 11 July she played Vieuxtemps’ Fantasia-Appassionata (Largo-Saltarelle), according to the programme. This suggests that she reached a higher level on the violin than most Academy graduates at the time. But then she had had an earlier start than most of her contemporaries.
Kôda Kô (1878-1963; she became Andô Kô when she married in 1905), started learning the violin at the age of ten. According to her elder sister Nobu, Nobu’s teacher, the Vienna-trained Rudolf Dittrich (1861-1919), caught sight of Kô’s hands when Kô accompanied Nobu to her lesson, and said, “This girl should be made a violinist.” He began to teach her, and soon she enrolled at the Tokyo Academy of Music. When she graduated from the preparatory department in 1894, with a performance of a movement from Giovanni Battista Viotti’s Concerto no. 7, the Yomiuri Newspaper praised her highly and even claimed that she would now replace her foreign professor. Dittrich did in fact leave soon after – that is why Kô ended up having lessons with her big sister -, but that was more because of financial constraints on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.
In 1899 Kô left for Vienna as the first music student under a new government programme. She met Dittrich again, but her ambition was to study with Joseph Joachim in Berlin. Had she heard of his reputation as a great teacher of women as well as men, I wonder? – Anyway, she gained admission to the conservatoire in Berlin in October 1899 and studied with Joachim’s assistant (and later successor) Karl Markees (1865-1926). From 1900 she studied with Joachim himself.
Returning to Japan in 1903 she too became a professor at the Tokyo Academy of Music, as well as the concertmaster of the Academy’s orchestra. This was going from strength to strength under August Junker (1870-1944) whom the Tokyo Academy of Music appointed in 1899. Unlike Dittrich, who was invited by the Japanese government, Junker had come to Japan “on spec”; he had previously led the viola section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1892 to 1897 (some of the biographical details on their website are inaccurate, although they have materials in their archives). In 1905 Kô married a philologist; Andô Shôichirô. He soon moved to the Kyoto and Osaka area and spent the rest of his teaching career there, but the couple still managed to have six children. That Kô nevertheless and against all conventions for high-born women continued with her busy career shows how much her skills were in demand.
Besides taking part in the Academy’s orchestral concerts, held at Japan’s oldest purpose-built concert hall, the Sôgakudô, the sisters often performed chamber music with the foreign teachers, Nobu taking the viola part. But they did not perform in public apart from school concerts (including concert tours by members of the Academy to other cities), and certainly not for fees. This would have brought them too close to the world of entertainment and geisha, an association they would have considered beyond the pale.
Kô taught at the Academy as a full professor until 1931, then as an external lecturer. In 1932 she acted as a jury member for the international violin competition in Vienna. That year it was won, very fittingly, by Gioconda de Vito from Italy. Kô also met Geoges Enesco, who told her he remembered her sister from her student days in Vienna. Kô continued to Baden Baden and visited Carl Flesch’s summer school for a month. Back in Japan, she became a jury member of the first annual Music Competition of Japan. Already from its fifth year, in 1936, girls began to figure prominently among the winners.
Despite their importance for the introduction of Western music and violin playing in Japan and despite their high position in society, the pioneering sisters suffered discrimination in what was ultimately a male-dominated society. Both of them were treated shabbily by the Tokyo Academy of Music. But more about this next time.
More entries: March 2011
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