S. Umebayashi “The Japanese Four Seasons” Premier in Japan

Gidon Kremer has commissioned an internationally renowned Japanese film composer Shigeru Umebayashi to write The Japanese Four Seasons, a new work for solo violin, string orchestra and percussion. Premiered by Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica at the Kronberg Festival in Germany on 29th September 2015 and at Suntory Hall, Tokyo on 21st October 2015, the twenty-minute suite will be performed by Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica in several countries during 2016-2017. A recording is also being planned for release in 2017.

The musical variants and varied possibilities inherent in the musical theme of the Four Seasons have always been closely associated with Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica – from A. Vivaldi’s Baroque original to A. Piazzolla’s Suite, and from the L. Desyatnikov Russian Seasons to Philip Glass’s American Four Seasons. In September 2015 Kremer and his ensemble premièred another variant on the theme as part of the Kronberg Academy Festival: Shigeru Umebayashi’s four-movement The Japanese Four Seasons – a work that finds the musicians exploring new musical terrain. Gidon Kremer says about the different styles of the pieces:

Some of the pieces we were and are performing  have a “program” inspired by poetry (like Vivaldi), some are related to folk music (like Desyatniov’s ”Russian seasons” as well composed for Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica), some refer to classics (like Raskatov’s “Seasons digest”, the core of which can be found in Tchaikovsky’s opus “Seasons”). Philip Glass denies any possibility or association with a story-everyone has to “invent” it him-/herself. Umebayashi incorporates many Japanese moods into the piece he gave us as a present and embellishes it with Japanese titles. It leaves a lot to every listener’s imagination too.“

As to how the cooperation between Umebayashi, the Kremerata Baltica and him actually came to exist, Gidon Kremer tells:

It was my idea after I got very enchanted by some wonderful film scores of S. Umebayashi. Therefore – as I do it often – I did approach the composer and asked him if he would consider to write a piece for me and Kremerata. I am very grateful that he was so generous and agreed to do it. Now the musical world is richer by one more opus on the subject of “Seasons”. Kremerata and I were very happy to take it on tour to Japan – to the country this music was born in and relates to.

Umebayashi describes the cooperation and his work on the piece as follows:

I was excited about meeting Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica. Composing The Japanese Four Seasons was like travelling alone, entwined with solitude. That was because the theme was something I had never thought about before. Now that work has been completed, my journey has changed into conveying ‘my life’ through music with happiness.”

Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica have also given the first Japanese performance of The Japanese Four Seasons during their Asian tour in the autumn of 2015.

Shigeru Umebayashi, who was born in 1951, came to the world’s attention through his film scores, many of which have in the meantime received prestigious international awards. He has provided the soundtracks for over thirty Japanese films, while his international successes include Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers, Tom Ford’s A Single Man and, last but not least, Wong Kar Wai In the Mood for Love and 2046. Before Umebayashi began writing film scores in 1985, he was a member of a new wave band EX.

Stylistic variety is also a hallmark of Kremerata Baltica. The group was formed in 1997 and is made up of young musicians from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It has made a name for itself above all through its unusual programming and through numerous world premières of works by young composers. In under twenty years they have risen to international prominence, a unique position that they owe to their artistic director and founder, Gidon Kremer, who described the ensemble in an interview with the New York Times as “a musical democracy […] open-minded, self-critical, a continuation of my musical spirit”.