Who or what inspired you to take up the French Horn and pursue a career in music?
It was my father. He loved classical music and played classical records all the time at home. I on the other hand liked film music, such as from Star Wars and Back to the Future, and wanted to play the trumpet. Fate would have it that when it came to deciding which instrument I got to play in the local music club, I lost at Rock Paper Scissors and had a horn shoved into my hands… But that’s when my father picked out from his vast collection some of the pieces that showcased the wonderful sound of the horn, such as Mozart’s “Horn Concerto” and Gustav Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” and I became hooked.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Looking at art, especially French Impressionist and Surrealist paintings. Impressionist paintings, with their pale and subtle colours and delicate brush strokes, are on the other end of the spectrum from horns. Brass instruments are generally perceived to produce bold and strong sounds, and I find that I can learn a lot from the contrasting Impressionist works. Surrealist paintings inspire me to be free from reality and to think freely. If my schedule allowed, I’d spend all day in museums.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
So far, any and everything that feels like a challenge at the time becomes “normal” as soon as it passes. I’d like to therefore focus on upcoming challenges: to perform pieces of music that I adore at Wigmore Hall in January 2019, and to perform both Richard Strauss’ Horn Concertos in autumn 2019!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
That’s a tricky question… As far as solo repertoire is concerned, I’d say contemporary music, especially pieces that have been written for me. As for symphonic repertoire, I feel that Rachmaninoff, Strauss, and Brahms suit my style best. They are all composers that excel at letting the mid-range sing.
Who would you say are your favourite musicians?
Mitsuko Uchida. I heard her performance at the Barbican, and her beautifully clear sound filled every inch and every corner of that notoriously dead hall, and all I could see was one divine moment after another just merging together right in front of my eyes.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I don’t tend to ‘cut up’ my repertoire by season. Rather, I decide on a theme for each engagement and choose pieces that best suit that theme. The theme could be anything from “Poetry”, to “Emotions”, to “From Hell to Space”. It’s great fun thinking about which theme I want to do, and to come up with pieces of music that go with it.
Is there a particular performance or recording that you are most proud of?
I have released many CDs to date, but the most precious to me is my second solo album. It is a set of two CDs – Japanese traditional songs on CD1, and only Japanese contemporary horn pieces (including ones I commissioned) recorded for the first time on CD2. Built around the concept of “Onko chishin” (one can acquire new knowledge by cherishing/looking to the old) it is an album that I can be proud of in and outside of Japan.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
There are two venues that stand out, memorable for different reasons: the Barbican Centre, where I performed with LSO for the first time, and Suntory Hall, where I performed my first concerto.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
There have been many performances for which I received critical acclaim – various recitals and solo horn performances during the NHKSO European tour, for example. Personally, the performance of Britten’s Canticle III “Still Falls the Rain” and “Serenade” I gave this year in Japan stands out. It was the wondrous synthesis of the experience I had while studying in Britain, the atmosphere of the performance, and the concentration of the audience that made it so unforgettable.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
The interesting and funny thing about classical music is that musical success doesn’t always equate to commercial success… But specifically regarding success as a musician, I think it would be “to be able to play whichever piece I like whenever I like”. I don’t think that day will come while I’m still active as a performing musician, and if it did, it would be when I’m getting on a bit, so I think I will leave this “taste of success” as something to look forward to in my retirement!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Do what others are not doing when you are young. Even if you fail, to have had that experience makes a huge difference, and I truly believe that the style you develop uniquely through that sort of experience will be a tremendous help to you later on as you develop as a musician.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
International Horn Soloist, Music Director of the music festival, Professor
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I really want to know the answer, but nobody tells me…
What is your most treasured possession?
French horn player Nobuaki Fukukawa will perform at Wigmore Hall on January 5th 2019, as the first 2019 concert of the Avex Recital Series. Further information and tickets