Aki Takahashi, piano
Born in Kamakura, Japan, she began studying piano at the age of five with her mother, then with Yutaka Ito, (Miss) Ray Lev, and George Vásárhelyi at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music where she received M.A. degree. She made her debut performing the music of Toru Takemitsu while still a graduate student. Takahashi held her first public solo recital in 1970 in Tokyo and showed her enthusiasm and critical acclaim as a interpreter of new music by such composers as Messiaen, Boulez, Xenakis, Takemitsu, and others.
Since her debut, she has been very active in performing new music and has regularly worked world-wide since her recitals in 1972 at the Berlin Festival Week and Paris Autumn Festival. Other venues she performed in include the Holland Festival, New Music America, the Berlin Metamusik, the Lincoln Center Festival, ULTIMA Oslo Contemporary Music Festival、musicadhoy in Madrid and “Japan! Culture & Hyper Culture” Festival in 2008 at Kenedy Center.
While acknowledged for her classical musicianship, Takahashi is particularly lauded for her imaginative interpretation of contemporary works. John Cage, Morton Feldman, Isang Yun, Peter Garland and her brother, Yuji Takahashi, to name a few, have all created works for her.
Her recording career is also distinguished. Her landmark recording, Aki Takahashi Piano Space, with 20 contemporary piano works including those by Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Anton Webern, et al. received her the Merit Prize at the Japan Art Festival in 1973. Her series of Erik Satie concerts (1975-77, Tokyo), conceived and produced by Kuniharu Akiyama, music critic and her husband, triggered a Satie boom throughout Japan, as a significant consequence. Takahashi was given a privilege to issue a complete collection of the composer’s piano works by her own editing and recording..
In 1980, She was invited by Morton Feldman to become a Creative Associate of “The Center of the Creative and Performing Arts” at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Since then, she has performed throughout the United States. She taught at the California Institute of the Arts in 1984 as a visiting professor.
On the occasion of the American premiere of his work Triadic Memories, Morton Feldman described: “Aki Takahashi is very different [from David Tudor and Roger Woodward]. Takahashi appears to be absolutely still. Undisturbed, unperturbed, as if in a concentrated prayer. Kafka writes about approaching his work as if in a state of prayer. And the painter Philip Guston also talked about the state similar to this, and marveled how Piero della Francesca or Montagna could bring it to all their work, as Aki Takahashi does. The effect of her playing on me is that I feel privileged to be invited to a very religious ritual.”
Her collaboration with Feldman to his death in 1987 has resulted not only in performing his music around the world but also in recordings, such as Triadic Memories, For John Cage, Piano and String Quartet (with Kronos Quartet), TRIO (with Rohan de Saram & Marc Sabat) and Feldman Piano Works.
She received the 1st Kenzo Nakajima prize (1983) and the 1st Kyoto Music Award (1986). She was the director of the "New Ears" concert series in Yokohama. City (1983-97), a brand new showcase for new music including commissioned works with new technologies.
Other noteworthy recordings include two CDs of Xenakis works, Takemitsu Piano Works, Four Walls (Cage), Avatara (Akira Nishimura), Giacinto Scelsi Piano Works and Hesitation-Tango(Tango Collection 1890-2005). In a project conceived, carried out, and performed by Aki Takahashi, a number of composers were commissioned to create works inspired by various Beatles tunes. Among the composers were Cage, Takemitsu, Terry Riley, Per Norgaard, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Curran, Alvin Lucier, Kaija Saariaho, Pauline Oliveros, Zygmunt Krauze, Tan Dun, Christian Wolff and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Of the resulting 4-CDs entitled “The Hyper Beatles” (Toshiba EMI), the first album was hailed by the New York Times as the “Best CD of 1990”.
In Spring 2006, she was invited to Maerz Musik Festival in Berlin as a “Pianist in Residence” for performing 5 concerts in the festival. In the Fall, her recital in New York playing Morton Feldman's pieces was noted as the Best Concert of the Year by the New York Times.
In 2007, she was awarded 58th ”Art Encouragement Prize” by the Minister of Education, Culture & Science for her CD “Schubert Piano Sonata” (Camerata Tokyo) and her concert “Morton Ferdman TRIO”. In 2008, she won Merit Prize at the Japan Art Festival for her CD “The Perilous Night -Aki Takahashi Plays John Cage” (Camerata Tokyo).
Since 2002, Takahashi has continued a recital series “Piano Dramatic” in Tokyo. She carries on her journey into even deeper realm of piano and music…