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NORIKO OGAWA

Noriko Ogawa began piano lessons at the age of four and a half, continuing her musical education at the Tokyo College of Music High School. She then went to the Juilliard School in New York, where she won the Gina Bachauer Memorial Scholarship, and whilst in that city played the piano for Benjamin Kaplan. Ogawa studied with Kaplan and states that she learnt from him the things she had not learnt from her other teachers. She returned to Japan where she later received a letter from Kaplan offering her the chance to enter the Leeds International Piano Competition: he offered her a scholarship of £1,000 from a benefactor to enable her to do this. She won third prize at the Leeds Competition, as a result receiving offers of recitals and concerto appearances. However, since Ogawa’s repertoire was small, she was unable to accept all the offered engagements, so her career began slowly with appearances in Britain, America, Japan and Asia.

A year after her success at Leeds, Ogawa gave her London recital debut at the Wigmore Hall playing Schumann’s Fantasie in C major Op. 17 and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor. She was awarded the Muramatsu Prize for her outstanding contribution to the musical life of Japan where she is very popular and regularly performs with the NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, often appearing on radio and television. Ogawa is also popular in Britain and therefore spends half of her year in Japan and half in Britain appearing with many of the British orchestras and in chamber recitals with violinist Dong-Suk Kang. Ogawa has appeared with many conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Tadaaki Otaka, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Richard Hickox.

In 1988 Ogawa formed a duo with clarinettist Michael Collins. From around 2000 Ogawa has also played in concert with pianist Kathryn Stott, and they gave the première of a concerto for two pianos, written for them by Graham Fitkin, with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in March 2003. Ogawa now also works with violinist Matthew Trusler.

Ogawa’s association with the Swedish-based record label BIS, which began in 1996, has fostered her career. She signed an exclusive contract with the company in October 1997 and to date she has appeared on twenty releases. She began by recording piano music by her compatriot Takemitsu with whom she had become friendly. The composer apparently liked the sound she made at the keyboard and knew that it would suit his music perfectly. Her next disc was also of Japanese piano music, but the following two were of core repertoire: piano concertos by Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Lawrence A. Johnson, writing in Fanfare, was greatly impressed with Ogawa’s recording of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos No. 2 in C minor Op. 18 and No. 3 in D minor Op. 30. ‘These stylish performances provide an antidote to years of would-be Cliburns banging away, and, like the cleaning of Renaissance frescos, wash away years of grime and bad habits to reveal the Classical underpinning of these works.’ He stated that Ogawa’s ‘luminous, electrifying performances’ would go to the top of his list of best discs for 1998. The performances certainly were an antidote, but those wanting to hear Rachmaninov played with more Russian spirit need to look elsewhere, although Ogawa professes a love of Dostoyevsky, and obviously has some understanding of the Russian spirit. Johnson was not so happy with her recording of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition which, in comparison to that of William Kapell, he found ‘heavy, literal and distinctly unenergized’.

Ogawa has made recordings of some unusual repertoire, including the Piano Concertos by Tcherepnin and Rimsky-Korsakov, Delius’s orchestral works transcribed for piano duet by Peter Warlock, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 arranged for solo piano and voices by Richard Wagner. She is at her best however in music that requires subtlety of sound. Her two discs of Debussy (the beginning of a projected complete cycle of his solo piano works) have received the highest of praise, with The Gramophone delighting in Ogawa’s ‘…magical transparency… super-fine pedalling and her cool command of texture and colour’. Ogawa’s soundworld is also suited to Frösöblomster, miniatures in the style of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger. Another highlight from Ogawa’s discography is her recent recording of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16. In this The Gramophone found that ‘…her musicianship and dexterity are immaculate, her interpretation quite without the mannerisms or idiosyncrasies that so often disfigure the readings of other more obviously celebrated names.’

Ogawa has a reputation for a beautiful sound. Her playing combines the clarity and scrupulousness shown by many Japanese pianists with an underlying and thoroughly thought-out solid foundation of technique and structure.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10)


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 
BRIDGES TO JAPAN BIS
BIS-CD-1059
Chamber Music
DEBUSSY, C.: Piano Music, Vol. 5 (Ogawa) - Suite bergamasque / Pour le piano / Arabesques BIS
BIS-CD-1405
Instrumental
DEBUSSY, C.: Solo Piano Works (Ogawa) BIS
BIS-CD-1955-56
Instrumental, Concertos, Instrumental
DEBUSSY: Piano Music, Vol. 1 BIS
BIS-CD-1105
Instrumental
DEBUSSY: Piano Music, Vol. 2 BIS
BIS-CD-1205
Instrumental
DEBUSSY: Piano Music, Vol. 3 BIS
BIS-CD-1355
Instrumental
DELIUS - Arrangements for piano 4 hands by Peter Warlock BIS
BIS-CD-1347
Instrumental
FITKIN, G.: Circuit / T1 / Relent / Carnal / From Yellow to Yellow / White / Furniture / T2 (Stott, Ogawa, Tokyo Symphony, Otomo) BIS
BIS-SACD-1517
Orchestral, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music, Instrumental, Chamber Music
GIL-MARCHEX / SZANTO / NIEMANN / SAINT-SAENS: Japonism, piano music BIS
BIS-CD-1045
Instrumental
GRIEG, E.: In Autumn / Piano Concerto / Symphony in C Minor (Ogawa, Bergen Philharmonic, Ruud) BIS
BIS-SACD-1191
Concertos
HOLMBOE: Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 17 / Clarinet Concerto No. 3, Op. 21 / Beatus Parvo BIS
BIS-CD-1176
Concertos
MITSUKURI: 3 Pieces After the Flower / HASHIMOTO: 3 Piano Pieces BIS
BIS-CD-854
Instrumental
MOZART, W.A.: Piano Sonatas Nos. 10-12 (Ogawa) BIS
BIS-1985
Instrumental
MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition BIS
BIS-CD-905
Instrumental, Opera, Instrumental
PETERSON-BERGER: Frosoblomster BIS
BIS-CD-925
Instrumental
RACHMANINOV, S.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4 / Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Noriko Ogawa, Malmo Symphony, Hughes) BIS
BIS-CD-975
Orchestral, Concertos
RACHMANINOV: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 BIS
BIS-CD-900
Concertos
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34 / Piano Concerto, Op. 30 / Sadko, Op. 5 BIS
BIS-CD-1387
Concertos
SAEVERUD: Fanfare and Hymn / Piano concerto, Op. 31 / Symphony No. 9 BIS
BIS-CD-962
Concertos
SAINT-SAENS: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 in D Major and 2 in G Minor BIS
BIS-CD-1040
Concertos
TAKEMITSU: Piano Music BIS
BIS-CD-805
Instrumental
TAKEMITSU: String Around Autumn (A) / I Hear the Water Dreaming / A Way a Lone II BIS
BIS-CD-1300
Concertos
TCHEREPNIN: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4 BIS
BIS-CD-1247
Concertos
TCHEREPNIN: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 / Piano Concerto No. 5 BIS
BIS-CD-1017
Concertos
TCHEREPNIN: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 / Piano Concerto No. 6 BIS
BIS-CD-1018
Concertos
THEDEEN, Torleif: The Japanese Cello BIS
BIS-CD-876
Chamber Music
WAGNER: Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 BIS
BIS-CD-950
Orchestral

Role: Arranger 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
DEBUSSY, C.: Solo Piano Works (Ogawa) BIS
BIS-CD-1955-56
Instrumental





 
 
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