Mediator between East and West

The world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa's octet “Texture”

(Photo: KazIshikawa)

Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were his first musical loves. Toshio Hosokawa, born in Hiroshima in 1955, received his first piano lessons at the age of four and immediately became enthralled by European music. In contrast, he did not like the traditional Japanese sounds that his mother played on the koto, a zither. “I found them boring,” as he says in an interview in the Digital Concert Hall. This changed, however, when he came to Berlin in the mid-1970s, where he studied composition with Isang Yun. “That's when I realised I was Japanese for the first time,” he recalls. Far from home, he discovered the beauty and spirituality of Asian music. During his studies, he not only explored Far Eastern folk music, but also the European avant-garde and developed his own, unmistakable tonal language – sensuous, energetic and oscillating. Today, he sees himself as a mediator between Eastern and Western music.

Connected to nature and the cosmos

His international breakthrough as a composer came in 2001 with Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima, the requiem in which he gave a musical voice to the trauma of the atomic bomb dropped on his home city. Since then, he has written works of all genres for many international orchestras, opera houses and ensembles. For the Berliner Philharmoniker and their principal horn player Stefan Dohr, he composed his concerto for horn and orchestra “Moment of Blossoming”, which was premiered in 2011 under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle and depicts the blossoming of a lotus flower. Becoming, growing, decaying, the laws of the cosmos and nature are themes that inspire Toshio Hosokawa. “I usually have a very concrete idea or story. I couldn’t compose without them,” he says. He composed his most recent work for the Philharmonic Octet: in Texture, a work commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation and the Japan Arts Cooperation, he deals with opposites such as male/female, high/low, light/dark and the idea of Yin and Yang. Hosokawa also juxtaposes a string quartet and a quartet of clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass. The world premiere, which should have taken place on 18 May as part of the Philharmoniker’s chamber music series, will now be broadcast exclusively on 6 June as part of the Berlin Phil Series in the Digital Concert Hall, together with the octets by Hugo Kaun and Franz Schubert. And another tip: after the concert on Saturday, there will be a Live Lounge with musicians of the octet on Facebook.

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The Philharmonic Octet rehearsing "Texture"; joined on video by Toshio Hosokawa
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)