Metropolis pianist Akimi Fukuhara recently gave the world premiere of Ryan Francis’s Tri Cantae in Tokyo. Akimi is quickly becoming a truly international artist. Dividing her time between New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo, she has set a clear goal for herself: “My hope as an artist is to become a ‘bridge’ between the artistic communities in the U.S. and Japan.” Part of encouraging dialogue between her native Japan and the U.S. has its roots in her interest in contemporary music. “The connections between music, politics and culture are very fascinating to me; working with living composers has been an incredible way to create dialogue between different musical communities.” Among her numerous performances over the past several years, her strong advocacy of Metropolis composer Ryan Francis’s music in Japan stands out.
Fukuhara and Francis have been friends and colleagues for the better part of a decade, and she has been actively championing his compositions in Japan since 2009. One such work she gave the Japanese premiere of is Francis’s Wind-Up Bird Preludes. Francis’s set of preludes was actually inspired by the novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, one of Japan’s most preeminent writers, who has become one of the most internationally recognized authors alive today. Although the Wind-Up Bird Preludes were completed in 2009, it took Fukuhara’s dedication to Francis’s music to bring the new work to a Japanese audience. Fukuhara even took steps to reach out to Murakami himself about the piece, and received an enthusiastic acknowledgement.
“It is really liberating to work on Francis’s music. It has taken me beyond my background of generally standard repertoire, and for Japanese audiences, hearing American new music just fresh off the page from New York is really unusual! It is especially encouraging that younger audiences I have played for are responding to contemporary music like his.”
This shared interest of her and her audience in Japan ultimately lead her to commission an entirely new piece by Francis for her latest recital in Japan. This past December, she gave the world premiere Francis’s newest piano work, Tri Cantae in Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo.
Listen to the performance:
Ryan Francis - Tri Cantae
“Playing Tri Cantae is like a meditation, and it requires a deep calmness and a great sense of space for its effect to come across. The whole piece consists of three voices spread across the entire range of the piano, but I wanted to play it without moving my upper body at all. The piece gave me a whole new perspective about pianistic sound, and it was really challenging to find a way of expressing each line in the piece.”
Fukuhara’s performance schedule is not exclusive to Japan however, and the Metropolis Ensemble community counts itself lucky to have had occasion to work with her. You might recognize her from her most recent appearance with the group during their appearance on last year’s MATA Festival. Hopefully her busy schedule will bring her rare artistry back to New York again soon!