Yuki Negishi, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

When I was 8 or 9 years old living in New York, my father took me to many concerts at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, particularly piano recitals. I heard Richard Goode, Radu Lupu, Maurizio Pollini, etc – all the contemporary greats –  and those experiences have definitely influenced me profoundly.  A decade later, Jan Marisse Huizing, who I went to study with in Amsterdam then introduced me to a myriad of historical recordings, including those still rare at the time by Raoul Koczalski,  Mikuli’s pupil (making him a direct descendant of Chopin’s lineage). That was a revelation. During my teens, my teacher in Japan, Mikako Abe guided me to pursue “truth” in interpretation, and this was later cemented by many lessons with Dominique Merlet, who I consider to be the most responsible for making me whole as an artist.

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

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012, my world felt like it had come to an end. In order to undergo treatments which included chemotherapy, I cancelled all of my engagements and took time off for nearly nine months. This was actually a blessing in disguise as it helped me reflect and it reinvigorated my love for music. The recurrence five years later was an even greater challenge in that I decide to honour my commitments and underwent surgery and radiotherapy without cancelling any concerts or teaching. It was tough but I learned about myself – not just my limits but also power that I didn’t know I had. 

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

There are too many (performances) to say which one..! I try to give my all for each performance so it really doesn’t matter where I play –  each concert leaves me with things to improve. I think I am still growing to be a better musician, especially in the last few years, and wonderful venues do help in making it a memorable performance: for example, the concerts in Japan that I have been giving regularly since 2017 – a combination of solo recitals and chamber music. I have been doing a lot of online performances since March, and I am quite happy with the programmes and the amount of preparation I was able to have due to more time spent at home. 

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Debussy. I have been spending a lot of time with Beethoven this year, a composer I personally used to find awkward, and I am enjoying every moment. He is a true revolutionary and a rock star!! I also love modern music, recently jazz-fused music, such as Kapustin. I also adore chamber music, particularly Brahms.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I like to read, watch films, go for walks and travel. I also love chats with friends from all walks of life, usually over a good meal! I listen voraciously to music of all genres (recently more non-classical, thanks to my husband’s taste!)

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

It is usually intuitive, but I like to find threads in themes. I usually include some Chopin and Debussy, maybe anniversary composers, along with more contemporary music, recently Kapustin, and also unknown female composers such as Amy Beach and Margaret Bonds. Their music is so deep, interesting and beautiful. 

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

Toppan Hall in Tokyo for its perfect acoustics and top quality instrument.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

I think social media is very important for its accessibility – engaging directly with the audience obviously makes it more personable. Because of the lockdown since March 2020, streaming has become common, and I think this is a good thing. I think more and more classical concerts will be streamed. In this day and age, “image” is also important. But the quality of the music is the most important, of course. Combining all of these would be a winner.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are too many to say which one, but the venues and instruments in Japan are just heavenly and this enhances the experience! My concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam performing Chopin’s 1st Piano Concerto with String Quintet is also another unforgettable experience. 

As a musician, what is your definition of success? 

Growing everyday – maintaining curiosity and “hunger” to delve deeper into the repertoire, technique, aesthetic. Finding your voice and style in a crowded market, and unashamedly promoting yourself – I don’t think this is something to be ashamed of! I find that people will start to listen to you if you are honest about yourself.

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

Don’t be afraid to be yourself! Teachers and people around you can only do so much….. Having said that, be kind and grateful to others as you can’t go at it alone. Preparation is key to everything and work hard. And answer emails and messages!!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Doing what I love most – music in all forms (playing, teaching, writing), surrounded by family and friends that I love and who love me back and support me.

What is your most treasured possession?

My inquisitive mind. And maybe also my hands🙄

What is your present state of mind?

The world is full of uncertainty at the moment, but I like to try to connect with my core and energy everyday with positivity.

Yuki Negishi has established herself as a pianist of rare poetry, passion and virtuosity, as well as an adjudicator, educator and researcher, captivating audiences wherever she performs around the world. Yuki has already performed in over 500 concerts in the UK alone, including many of the most important halls and festivals, and regularly performs about 30 concerts a year internationally as recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician in countries such as the Netherlands (Concertgebouw), France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy (Festival di Londra), Romania, Japan, China and the USA. She has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, ITV, Channel 4, Dutch, Polish, Romanian and French television and radio.

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