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NOBUKO IMAI

Having trained at the Tokyo Toho Gakuen School of Music with Toshiya Eto, then The Juilliard School and Yale University in New York, Nobuko Imai began her career by winning the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1967 and highest prizes at both the Geneva International Music Competition and ARD International Music Competition at Munich. She was a member of the Vermeer Quartet in the 1970s and has more recently formed the Michelangelo Quartet which tours all over Europe and Japan, receiving acclaim for its virtuosity and musical expression.

Imai’s involvement in cultural exchange programmes between Amsterdam and Tokyo led her to found the East-West Baroque Academy in 2000, exposing young musicians from both cultures to early music performance practices. She also teaches at the Amsterdam, Geneva and Tibor Varga (Sion) conservatories.

Her recording output is extensive, covering the full range of viola repertoire and including some lesser-known twentieth-century works. She has given premières of pieces by George Benjamin, bassist Duncan McTier and David Horne amongst others, and has made her own adaptations for the viola of works from classical cello repertoire. Collaboration with Japanese avant-garde composer Tōru Takemitsu produced a beautiful 2009 recording of A String Around Autumn, his viola concerto written for her in 1989. Here (in this arrangement for viola and piano) and in other performances Imai is revealed to be a considered and fastidious interpreter. Her sound is in the modern mould with an occasional slight tendency towards exaggerated vibrato.

What is particularly creditable is Imai’s ability to adapt her performance style to different repertoire, although not always entirely authentically. Thus an authoritative 2007 Mozart Sinfonia concertante with Philippe Graffin is clean and tidy, with vibrato reined in and phrasing carefully sculpted. The effervescence of her performance of Mozart’s K. 424 Violin Duo (also with Graffin, 2007) has an especially vivacious finale and some soulful playing in the proto-Romantic middle movement.

Brahms and Schumann recordings from 1987 use a modern mainstream tonal palette that does not benefit from recent research into Romantic performing practices, although both performances are powerful, articulate and considered in all other respects and the varied textures and juxtapositions of moods, enriched by Vignoles’s supreme pianism, in the Schumann Märchenbilder are particularly enticing.

In twentieth-century repertoire Imai is very persuasive. Her Hindemith Sonata, Op. 25 No. 1 (1993) is perhaps a little brutal in the first movement and there are some unwarranted distortions in the second, but the excitement of the finale is irresistible. Her Reger Suite No. 1 (2003) effortlessly transcends neo-classical and late-Romantic boundaries and is, besides, technically unimpeachable, whilst Hosokawa’s Voyage VI (2002) is full of colour, a natural sense of phrase space and pacing, and an impressive command of textures, both lyrical and eerily nightmarish.

While Imai’s playing is not immediately distinctive, her consistency and imagination over a vast and varied repertoire are commendable.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)


Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
View by Role: Classical Artist | Arranger
Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
Bach / Dowland / Isaac / Machaut: Antiquities BIS
BIS-CD-1229
Chamber Music, Instrumental
DENISOV: Chamber Music BIS
BIS-CD-518
Concertos, Chamber Music, Orchestral
DURUFLE / HAHN / WEINBERG / NIKOLAYEVA: Chamber Music BIS
BIS-CD-1439
Chamber Music
HINDEMITH: Solo Viola Sonatas BIS
BIS-CD-571
Instrumental
HINDEMITH: Viola Sonatas / Meditation BIS
BIS-CD-651
Chamber Music
HOSOKAWA / PENDERECKI / NORGARD: Viola Space Japan 10th Anniversary BIS
BIS-CD-1379-80
Concertos, Instrumental
JAPANESE MUSIC FOR ACCORDION AND VIOLA BIS
BIS-CD-929
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
LIGETI, G.: 1948-2001: A Ligeti Odyssey (Ullen, Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, Imai, Nussbaum) BIS
BIS-1503
Instrumental
MARTINU: Fresques de Piero della Francesca (Les) / Viola Rhapsody-Concerto / Double Concerto BIS
BIS-CD-501
Concertos
MILHAUD: 4 Visages / ENESCU: Concert Piece BIS
BIS-CD-829
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Concertos, Chamber Music
MOZART, W.A.: String Quintets Nos. 1-6 / Piano Quintet / Clarinet Quintet / Horn Quintet (Orlando Quartet, Nobuko Imai, Fröst, Hough) BIS
BIS-9046
Chamber Music
MOZART: Complete String Quintets, Vol. 1 BIS
BIS-CD-431
Chamber Music
MOZART: Complete String Quintets, Vol. 2 BIS
BIS-CD-432
Chamber Music
MOZART: Complete String Quintets, Vol. 3 BIS
BIS-CD-433
Chamber Music
NYSTROEM: Ishavet / Viola Concerto / Sinfonia concertante BIS
BIS-CD-682
Concertos
PETTERSSON, A.: Symphony No. 5 / Viola Concerto (Imai, Malmo Symphony, Atzmon, Markiz) BIS
BIS-CD-480
Concertos
REGER: Romance for Viola and Piano / Three Suites for Viola / Viola Sonata BIS
BIS-CD-1211
Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental
RUBINSTEIN / GLINKA / GLAZUNOV / STRAVINSKY / SHOSTAKOVICH: Russian Viola Music BIS
BIS-CD-358
Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
SCHNITTKE: In Memoriam / Viola Concerto BIS
BIS-CD-447
Concertos

Role: Arranger 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
Bach / Dowland / Isaac / Machaut: Antiquities BIS
BIS-CD-1229
Chamber Music





 
 
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12:30:23 PM, 22 December 2014
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