Etsuko Hirose, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

It was my mother who happened to find an article of the Suzuki Method just before I was born, which explained “the importance of exposing children to good music from infancy and developing good musical sense” and that “the pieces they hear must be of highest quality from the beginning”. That’s why my mother made up her mind to raise me by ensuring I listened to recordings by legendary artists, every day from morning to evening from a very early age. I was one month old, and the music became for me something indispensable like oxygen. Since my mother was a piano teacher and there was a piano at home, I started the piano when I was three, and since then, it has always been a part of me.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

The important encounter in my musical life was firstly my teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, Bruno Rigutto, then Marie-Françoise Bucquet (who left us in 2018…) and Jorge Chaminé, who transformed me with their incredible art of transmission and they have become like my second parents. Also Martha Argerich who has been my idol since my childhood and it was like a dream when I could finally meet and play for her when I won the 1st Prize at the Martha Argerich Competition, which launched my career. I feel also deeply grateful to Cyprien Katsaris with whom I made a 2 pianos CD and some tours in Japan – a real magician who inspires me a lot, both as a pianist and a person.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

To prepare many different programmes in the short term, sometimes with the concerts I am asked at last minute to replace another pianist, that is always a big challenge but exciting at the same time, I like taking risks.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

To be honest, my musical concept evolves with time and I don’t always agree with my interpretation of the past. But if I had to choose, I would say one of my first recordings, La Valse, for Denon – an album featuring the ballet music from Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky/Pletnev), Petrouchka (Stravinsky), La Valse (Ravel) etc. For my recent CDs, I would cite my Balakirev recording for Mirare and also my latest release of music by Moszkowski for Danacord.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I feel a strong affinity to Chopin, Liszt, Schumann… the music I can play from my soul, but I also love to play Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and many others. Usually I choose the repertoire I am sure to feel in love with, sympathetic to and confident in. And every time I play something, I truly think it is the most beautiful work.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It depends mostly on what I am requested, on the anniversary year of the composers; besides I always try to promote the rare composers as I recorded Alkan, Balakirev, Lyapunov, Moszkowski etc. I think the pianists often play quite the same repertoire although there are so many interesting pieces which remain unrecognized and neglected that one life is not enough to discover everything. I am always curious to find those unknown works, which is a real treasure hunt, and I enjoy enlarging my repertoire.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

There are so many wonderful halls everywhere and impossible to name just a few.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Definitely the recital I played at altitudes of 2800m in the Pyrenées at the Festival Piano-Pic. So magical and inspiring to play above the clouds, seeing the mountaintops, with an eagle turning calmly above the piano as if he was savouring Chopin, and the hoot of an owl as a counterpoint. Unforgettable!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being totally inside music, inspired, transcendent and feeling that I am establishing a connection on a spiritual level with the audience.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

As Chopin says, “Put all your soul into it, and play the way you feel”

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think it doesn’t exist or always too ephemeral, but I try to be aware of small happiness anytime and to appreciate it.

What is your most treasured possession?

My friends

Etsuko Hirose album of Moszkowski Piano Works is available now on the Danacord label.

Born in Nagoya in Japan, Etsuko Hirose began studying the piano at the age of three. When she was only six, she performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.26 with orchestra. After pursuing her studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse she has received the guidance of Alfred Brendel and other notables. A prize-winner at prestigious international contests such as the Frederic Chopin Competition for young pianists (Moscow), the G. B. Viotti and the Munich ARD Competition, she won First Prize at the Martha Argerich Competition in 1999, which launched her solo career.She is a guest at renowned venues in Germany, US, Argentina and Japan, and has been accompanied by numerous leading orchestras with distinguished conductors. Etsuko has also been invited to appear at many festivals in Europe and Asia). Her performances are regularly broadcast, notably on Arte, France 3, France Musique, Radio Classique, and the NHK.She has recorded numerous discs for Denon, Mirare, Warner and Piano21. Her two most recent recordings were devoted to Lyapunov, with 12 Etudes d’exécution transcendante, and an album of piano duets with Cyprien Katsaris.

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