Akiko Suwanai

February 12, 2004 at 02:01 AM · Anyone shares my admiration for this immensely talented violinist? It's strange that not that many people know her.

Replies (14)

February 12, 2004 at 02:21 AM · i know of her...SHE HAS THE VIOLIN I WANT...the dolphin strad...i dont think its on permanent loan to her though..i think its a short term loan.i hope so

February 12, 2004 at 03:06 AM · Greetings,

I do! She is just fantastic. There are so many young Japanes e players hitting the headlines for winning competition x or y at age 14 but I think Suwanai is really here to stay.

Having said that, it is posisbly a rather complex situation for female Japanese players and she may not be getting the global exposure she deserves.

To ilustrate what I mean, I moved house four or five years ago, and as I wa s unpacking I suddnely heard someoen next door (!) giving a top class rendetion of the Shostakovitch cocerto. So I bange d on the door and it turned out to be an awesome violnist called Akiko Hata who studied for many years with Galamina and then Delay before coming back to Japan, getting married and working in her husbands hopsital as a receptionist...

There is just not enough work in Japan but it really is hard for such players to live or travle abroad constantly. The food is a major problem and the Japanes e are notoriuosly bad at learning foreign languages for reasons that would soon become apparent if you ever went to a language class- almost certianly conducted solely in Japanese! Then there is the social pressur e to get married and have children which is still so much stromger than western countries (maybe ;) ).

An interesting aspect of the question of talent of Japanes e players/orchestra came to light in a chat I recenly had with a fine Japanese conducter (Komatsu). I asked him what he saw as the way forward for music in Japan and he emphatically stated that the main problem of Japanese muscians is that ina culture that places possibly too much emphasis on reading and writing the part of the brain asociated with color is undevloped which is why even some of the best players sound slighly one dimensioanl although they are as good muscially as anyone from any where else.

Another player to watch who I am lucky enough to play to about four times a year is Rieko Suzuki. She spent a great deal of time abroad and is one of the most -colorful= violnist I have ever hear (studied with Gingold for two years, then Misltein and Szeryng). But she mostly plays in quartets and chamber orchestras these days.

Perhaps another cultural aspect that hold s players back is the kind of repertoire that managers and promoters belive is best liked and what a typical program should be. I recently played a recital that inlcuded Suk op17 and was offered the chance to play in some other concert halls `if I learnt some short pieces like Czardas and Humouresque...`

Odldy enough, it wa s clear that the audience throughly enjoyed the Suk which is apparently too difficult for them.

I suspect if you ask the professionals on this list who have done solo tours in Japan they were put under some pressure to play roughly the folowing:

Beethoven Spring Sonata (1st movement)

Vitali Chacconne.

Thais Meditation.


Kreisler Londonderry Air.

Tschiakovsky Serenade Melancholique.

Monti Czardas.


Any set of variations on well known Japanese folk songs.




February 12, 2004 at 03:31 AM ·

February 12, 2004 at 04:08 AM · Brian, I hope you aren't basing your impression of Suwanai from that recording of Tchaik concerto from the gala concert...the recording made live from the competition is far better than the gala with Boris Whatever-the-hell-his-name-is. Her Ysaye Ballade, Waltz-Scherzo, Tzigane, and Concerto are knock-outs...and I'm pretty sure David Kim was in the 86 competition...

February 12, 2004 at 04:48 AM · I quite enjoy her playing! A lot of talent, and I hope she does well in the music world for years to come!

February 12, 2004 at 08:59 AM · Thanks,guys! Andrew,where can I get the live recording from the competition?

February 12, 2004 at 04:06 PM · I found it in Half-Price books--do you have those in Canada? On a cover is a picture of her in the midst of playing, in a come-hither black dress with hair everywhere.

February 12, 2004 at 10:05 PM · she must have been a musical prodigy because she placed 2nd in paganini and queen elizabeth and won tchaikovsky all by when she was 18! i also know that she stopped playing concerts for a couple years after winning to study at juilliard. she currently lives in france and is one of the most prominent violinists in japan. i have her debut CD of the bruch concerto no.1 and scottish fantasy on the Phillips label with Sir Neville Merriner.. it is really amazing. i then bought her sibelius and walton concerto CD with high expectations.. and was very disappointed. she plays note-perfect, but i wasn't touched deeply as i was with the bruch. nonetheless, she is definitely a one to watch.

February 13, 2004 at 04:35 AM ·

February 13, 2004 at 09:26 AM · Thanks,Andrew. I don't think we have that in Canada (even if we did, chance of having a tape that that would be VERY rare). I do have her DVD playing the Paganini no.1 (amazon.co.jp) though.

February 14, 2004 at 09:40 PM · I discovered her last year while looking for a violin CD gift to a dear friend. I ended up borrowing it back for a month!

February 14, 2004 at 10:02 PM · Brian, it's hard to say for sure unless one were to hear every contestants complete performances. Little PBS clips don't really tell the whole story. I can tell you for sure that Akiko has no technical weaknesses, and I think you would reconsider your opinion if you were to hear her play in person next time you have a chance. I think she's a great player, amazing chops, beautiful sound, but a little on the plain side for my taste.

February 14, 2004 at 10:54 PM · Not to mention she's also very beautiful--I'm talking about her sound, of course.

February 15, 2004 at 04:47 AM ·

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