Follow Kent Nagano and the OSM in Asia! The OSM lead, throughout its history, some forty excursions and tours. Follow this new adventure day by day in company of OSM`s musical director, soloists, our musicians and members of the administrative staff. Backstage interviews, testimonies, highlights of the cities and venues visited and much more… not to be missed!

Concert à Tokyo - Concert in Tokyo

After more than 6 years, the Japanese public welcomes back «it’s » OSM offering them exceptional concerts night after night!

Our trip to Japan, offered us incredible opportunities. We discovered an extremely rich millennial culture, made interesting encounters and soaked in the beautiful scenery and effervescence of the big cities. More importantly, however, it was the opportunity to see our Orchestra perform so brilliantly this rich and varied repertoire that makes this trip so important.

Each hall we performed in had its particularities, its colors. These differences gave each concert a beautiful new dimension. Maestro Nagano and Dina Gilbert, OSM assistant conductor, refined the sound during the acoustic rehearsals which helped the artists familiarize themselves with the space. These acoustic rehearsals are the perfect moment to work on the balance between the different sections of the orchestra and align the one musical path or the other to respect the musical text.

As for the concert experience, every night is different and unique. It gives us the chance to rediscover the French and Russian repertoire presented in Japan. Debussy, Ravel, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, the Japanese public is not only very attentive but their applause confirms the admiration for our musicians and maestro Nagano. Encores are demanded after each performance. A virtuoso performance of Le Corsaire overture, Bizet’s Farandole was impeccable and what is there to say about the public’s reaction when the Orchestra performed some of the Japanese songs from their latest album “Shoka.” It was very touching to see a public, sometimes considered as reserved, nod and subtly swaying to this music that moves them so. When the last note was heard, the public still asked for more!

For Maestro Nagano, it’s after the concerts, during the very popular album signings, that he has the chance to meet the public. The compliments were never ending. Moved, they ask maestro for autographs on albums, phones, instrument cases or pictures they took with Maestro somewhere in the world. These privileged moments created beautiful reunions and Mo. Nagano had the chance to see colleagues and friends.

The last concert in Japan for the OSM was in Sapporo. The city was draped in fall colors just for us. We were still moved by the concert presented in Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, one of the most prestigious halls of the world. It has to be said that the OSM performance, heightened by an exceptional acoustic, was a memorable experience. The colors, shades, flexibility and subtlety of the ensembles are still ringing in our ears.

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One week and six concerts into our tour we have travelled from Tokyo Bay to the sea of Japan and back again. We started on a positive note in Tokyo city, jet-lagged from the long journey, and impressed by the sheer excitement of the world’s most populous urban centre. We mustered our energy for our concert at the Metropolitan Art Space, featuring soloist Ryu Goto with Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D, and were rewarded with such a wonderfully enthusiastic audience response – and this was only the beginning.

Then on to the city of Fukui with its majestic Harmony Hall. A much smaller city, surrounded by beautiful mountains; the contrast in pace couldn’t have been greater. Not far away, Kyoto the city of ten thousand shrines, was a sight to behold. As the former seat of the Imperial Palace, this ancient city is a lasting testament to the long and noble history of Japan. We performed in the Kyoto Concert Hall, home to the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, and were joined in this concert by Boris Berezovsky for his powerful interpretation of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Then, we returned to the greater Tokyo area the naval port of Yokosuka and of an all-Ravel program in the horseshoe shaped concert hall of Yokosuka Arts Theatre. From one performance to the other, my colleagues musicians surpassed themselves to attain higher levels of perfection and we felt privileged to receive in return a generous and vibrant reception from the public.

When our concert at the Women’s University in Koriyama took place, in memory of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, we felt privileged to offer the community a very special concert. We broke from our programming so far to present Onna-no-ko no uta, a selection of traditional Japanese songs in a new orchestral arrangement by Jean-Pascal Beintus. These songs, performed with soprano Erika Colon (and recently recorded by the OSM and Diana Damrau for the album Shoka: Japanese Children Songs) date back to the nineteenth century period in which Japan opened up culturally and economically to the west. Passed on from mothers to daughters, the songs confront this painful period of change in Japan with the regenerative power of music. So often in the face of adversity people turn to music as a source of hope and faith that beauty, cooperation and healing can prevail over pain and heartbreak. Through this special concert, my colleagues and I were deeply honored to have had the chance to make a musical contribution of our own to the healing process and the memory of the earthquake which caused so much destruction in this region only a few years ago.

It is with much anticipation that we travelled back down to Tokyo for a performance at the legendary Suntory Hall, which Herbert Von Karajan famously helped design in a similar style to the Berliner Philharmonie, with the audience seated all around the stage. As the finest ensembles of the world present themselves here (with Vienna and then Marinsky just before us), it is with pride that the OSM played for a sophisticated, warm and generous audience in a hall internationally renowned for its fantastic acoustic.

 

The OSM were called back for 9 curtain calls and 3 encores at Suntory so if the reception so far is any indication, we still have much to look forward to in the coming days.

 

 

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Concert au Metropolitan Art Space à Tokyo / Concert at  Tokyo's Metropoliitan Art Space

Sometimes we want to write right away; sometimes we need to breathe it in before writing it all down. I decided to wait this time. Japan is a beautiful, fascinating and refined country where politeness, cleanliness and precision in organization are equal to none. Here are then my comments on this Japanese tour, the second one for me.

I am a privileged witness to the OSM success. It’s always intriguing to sit with the audience every night. The Japanese audience might be reserved, but it was very sophisticated and warm towards our Orchestra. I could feel the admiration and enthusiasm of the public after the concerts. Particularly when maestro turns towards the musicians and make them rise one after the other and then all together. We witnessed many encores, resounding applause and arms in the air always asking for more.

I am always curious to see the reaction of the audience when the OSM performs the Japanese songs (works we just recorded under the Analekta record label). Do they recognize them? What impresses me every time however is the hundreds of people lining up after the concert to meet Kent Nagano to get his autograph or to simply thank him. We were also joined by the team at Sony to promote the release of our latest recording of the Beethoven symphonies (Nos. 2 and 4).

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There are 3 moments of this tour in Japan I will always cherish:

The Suntory Hall: a mythic hall! I will always remember the feeling I had the last time we performed here 6 years ago. We were still examining the possibility of building our Maison symphonique. The Suntory will always remain for me one of my favorite halls in the world. (I visited about 30 halls). It is also considered to be one of the best in the world. The acoustic is exceptional and the elegance of the architecture, breathtaking! My ears are still hearing the resonance and transparence of Debussy’s La Mer and Ravel’s Daphis and Chloe.

The second unforgettable moment for me is completely different. Seeing the warm welcome of the public when we arrived to Koriyama for the memorial concert for the victims of the Fukushima earthquake was truly touching. People were lined up next to our bus and applauded the musicians as they got off the bus. An unforgettable moment!

Activité éducative dans une école primaire de Yokosuka / Educational activity in a Yokosuka elementary school

Last but not least was the visit to the Higashiyama elementary school located in a Tokyo suburb. An orchestra with 10-12 year old musicians welcomed Kent Nagano, Dina Gilbert, OSM assistant conductor and Pierre Beaudry, OSM bass-trombone and our small team, in procession singing the Canadian national anthem. A huge poster overhanging the stage welcomed the OSM and Kent Nagano. They performed works for our conductor entirely from memory and with an incredible discipline which was pretty impressive. They asked for his comments in their carefully prepared Japanese and English. The older students joined them as well as Pierre Beaudry, (the kids were ecstatic around him!) and Kent Nagano conducted in Finlandia by Sibelius after working with them on the musical expression. The performance was followed by warm acknowledgements and autographs on instrument cases. Working with these students is so important! I had the impression that I was back in my Joliette youth orchestras a few (few…) years ago!! My first contact with classical music started there. Congratulations to Kent Nagano, to Pierre and Dina for their generosity. Thank you to Kajimoto, our producer, for organizing the event and for sharing Kent Nagano and the OSM’s vision on the importance of educational activities within the community.

And now: China!

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As members of the Orchestra’s board, we discuss the pros and cons of going on tour. The comments always include:

“What for?” “This will cost a lot of money and will have to be auto financed” “it’s risky” “it doesn’t help our local market!”

I would like to offer my perspective as one of the OSM board members participating at the OSM Asian tour.

A world-class orchestra

First and foremost, the OSM has to be considered as a world-class orchestra, it is at the heart of its mission. In order to do so, it is necessary to be compared to the best orchestras in the world, which is done by going on tour. As we are witnessing during the present tour in Japan and China, our orchestra is received with open arms. The halls were almost full, no less than 4-5 encores at each and every concert, “bravos” shouted by the audience, not usually done by the Japanese public, flowers offered to Kent Nagano spontaneously by fans and more than 300 fans waiting in line for an autograph after each concert. Absolutely unseen!

It’s risky!

Yes, but it depends who are your partners. Here, Kajimoto answers to this demand and offers precious support, an association that made 10 tours in Japan possible.

Kajimoto accepted to produce our tour at a guaranteed fee, taking care of the logistics which includes, travel, accommodations and every other detail that contribute to the well-being of the musicians and the concert’s success. The traveling logistics in train, metro, bus or plane was minutely prepared to make them as easy and as natural as possible.

The development of the musicians

I had the chance to speak to some of the young musicians of the orchestra during our travels. The answer is the same for everyone: participating on a tour, performing in different world renowned halls every night is an unrivaled experience.

Spending time with Kent Nagano and the best OSM musicians so intensely during the twenty day tour is particularly educational and every musician grows and becomes stronger.

To be an ambassador with Kent Nagano for 20 days

To perform in Montreal and go home after each concert, every day, is easy. To live, eat and perform together, night and after night, for a different audience for 20 days, is not so easy, but it creates relationships, camaraderie and solidarity among the musicians. It can only reinforce the orchestra which in turn produces a better product. On the international stage, Kent Nagano and the musicians are Canadian ambassadors, OSM ambassadors and classical music ambassadors.

The OSM Brand

The OSM and Kent Nagano represent an important Canadian brand that different governmental administrations (for Quebec and Canada but also Montreal) are proud to export overseas. We have to invest in tours to maintain, consolidate and grow our international notoriety in order to preserve this precious relationship in the future.

The audience in Quebec loves to win in sports, in arts, in business. They are proud of what they accomplish. If the local media speaks about our successes overseas positively, the enthusiasm and the support of the local market for our concerts presented in Montreal will be bigger than ever!

Georges Morin,
Member of the OSM Board of directors

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Listen to Patrick Masbourian’s interview on ICI Radio-Canada Première

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On 11 March 2011, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan took place in the Tohoku region. Less than an hour later, the first waves of the tsunami that followed it hit Japan’s east coast.
The waves reached the Fukushima nuclear plant, located about fifty kilometers from the coast. The plant was not designed to withstand a storm of this magnitude; the water entered the enclosure and damaged several facilities, including the cooling systems.

The water that entered the plant and the several errors made by the staff trying to repair the damage, led to the leaking of a large number of radioactive substances in the air. It is said that this leak was even greater than the one in Chernobyl. Many people were displaced and experts believe that the dismantling and the decontamination could take up to forty years.

With the memorial concert on October 15 at the Koriyama’s Women’s College, the OSM wanted to show its support to the population of the Fukushima region. The city of Koriyama is situated just 50 kilometers from Fukushima and its plant. The signs of contamination were detected in the city’s water supplies in 2012.

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On October 13, maestro Nagano, Dina Gilbert and I visited students at an elementary school in Yokosuka. We didn’t have all the details of the day, apart from the fact that we would hear a symphony orchestra composed of 10-12 year-old kids perform Nicolai’s overture of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Sibelius’ Finlandia. Two works we really did not expect to be performed by such young musicians.

We were so surprised to see that the pieces were not only performed in their entirety but the young musicians were performing them with such an ease, it was almost disconcerting. After the performance, they asked Kent Nagano to conduct the ensemble and to share a few of his precious tips.

From the conductor’s very first words and demands concerning The Merry Wives of Windsor overture, we witnessed a categorical change in the children’s performance. The strings had more subtlety and were much softer. Maestro explained to them the details of the story, the meaning of the strings at the very beginning. They symbolize dawn, so they have to start slowly. The students listened carefully and imagine the story. Before conducting, maestro asked me to join the group, so I went on stage and took place next to the trombones.

During Finlandia, where Kent Nagano made the strings expand in sound, the youngest kids got up and started singing the Finnish national anthem. It was truly touching. The concert ended with Japanese songs. While some played, the others, younger, sung whole heartedly in harmony creating a small wave to the rhythm of the music.
It was an unforgettable experience for me, to discover a school, surely one of many in Japan that believe so profoundly in the benefits music has on young people. We could see how much this education would shape them to become in the future, if they wished, great musicians, music lovers, but most of all men and women who are used to work towards a common goal, to have great discipline, to listen and respect each other.
I had the chance to speak a bit with the students after the performance. We took a group picture right before we left. I will never forget this moment.

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Sorry, this entry is only available in Français.

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5 février 1985, salle Bunka Kaikan, Tokyo

It was in 1985 that the OSM went on their first real tour in Asia. In 1970, the OSM performed in Osaka Japan but the visit was limited to 3 concerts presented in the city as they were part of the Expo 70’
In 1985, the OSM visited 4 Japanese cities and presented 5 concerts, then at the Hong Kong Arts Festival where the presented 6 concerts in 7 days. The festival organizers were thrilled and the Japanese critics even compared the OSM to the Berliner Philharmoniker.

This first Asian tour also coincided with the OSM’s first recordings under the label DECCA. As a great classical music consumer, the Japanese public knew the recordings and was waiting impatiently to finally discover the OSM and Charles Dutoit.

On the picture: at that time, the OSM was particularly recognized for its interpretation of the French and Russian repertoire, but on February 5th 1985, it was a program presented was less associated to the Orchestra: Schumann’s First Symphony and Mahler’s First Symphony.

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Since the Orchestra had a day off yesterday, I decided to go visit the volcanic valley of Ōwakudani. It is situated right in front of Mount Fuji, and there is a magnificent view of the mountain. It wasn’t the only reason I decided to go to the valley. I wanted to try the infamous Ōwakudani black eggs, a local specialty. These eggs are cooked in the valley’s water source. They become black when cooked (a chemical reaction with the sulfur and the iron in the water), as well as a strong odor of sulfur. According to the tradition, eating these eggs increases life expectancy: eating them would increase your life expectancy of 7 years!
oeuf sulfureux

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steak

Before yesterday, I went to an incredible restaurant! I ate 5 different kinds of steak. The chef cooked them directly in front of us on a huge griddle. He started cooking the vegetables: mushrooms, sweet potatoes, peppers, not the spicy ones though and an eggplant. The best however was definitely the steak!

We chose a tasting of 5 kinds of steak. The chef cooked them and sometimes he even made a huge flame to give the steak a special taste. It was the best steak I ever ate! One of them melted in your mouth, you didn’t even need to chew. Miaaaaammmm!!

Then, yesterday night, we went to another really cool restaurant in Tokyo. The chef was right in front of us here too. When you ordered the food, the waiter screamed your order and all the other chefs and all the other waiters repeated the order screaming. He didn’t cook the food on a griddle. He cooked it on a grill and when it was ready; he put the food on a big plate and brought it to us. A really amazing experience!

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Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space: the first concert venue of the tour.

With one day to recover after the long flight and all of us suffering from jet lag we began our rehearsal for the first concert. Normally a hall with a cavernous auditorium shape like that would suck the sound out of the orchestra or make it much too boomy, but the wood that lines the walls there makes the Spirit dance and the sound come alive. In fact, the first thing I noticed about the hall was how clearly I could hear the others. However, Maestro Nagano warned us that the sound can be brittle and hard so we needed to adjust to create more colour and warmth. We brass players understood that we should “take it down a notch”, volume-wise, to do our bit.

Treated_NKS_lokiThe Spirit of this hall was a playful one, like Loki, the God of mischief. He wanted to create trouble for us and I could feel the whole orchestra being distracted by all the new sensory information coming our way. It reminded me of how my dog, Monty, forgets all his tricks if I try to train him outside his usual space. If I was a good trainer I would get him used to practicing all over the place so he would adjust quickly, the way we have to when we change halls every day or so on tour.

This is the fascinating process we go through all the time on tour. We have a rehearsal or a short «sound check” on the day of the concert in a new hall, and all our antennae are vibrating at full speed to make adjustments so that we can later perform as well as if we were playing in our very own Maison Symphonique. Even in the hours between the rehearsal and concert I believe we’re subconsciously processing the information we receive, and by concert hour we are able to concentrate on the music and play our communal best.

Last night was no exception, the orchestra played with all its usual verve and the enthusiastic crowd seemed very pleased. As an added bonus, the sound was much warmer with the audience in their seats. It seems like an engineering miracle to me that designers can take into account the difference the bodies make to the acoustics of a hall. I guess that’s all in a day’s work for them, just as working with the resident Spirit they created is ours!

P.S. I’m writing this on the Bullet train from Tokyo to Fukui. So cool! The Japanese really care about the comfort of their passengers: the toilet seats are heated!!

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On Monday, we headed to Yokosuka by bus for an afternoon concert. It was the last of four concerts in a row to start the tour. It’s was a busy few days, 4 concerts, 4 cities and 4 bullet trains. A typical schedule these days include an early morning wake up call, a few hours travel to the new city, a bit of time to grab a bite, warm up at the hall, 25 minute sound check, short break before the concert, perform the concert, back on the bus back to the hotel or off to another city.

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One thing that makes things easier for us on tour in Japan is the availability of food! They have mastered the convenience of food on the go with bentō boxes. They are available anywhere from convenient stores, department stores to train stations. Always beautifully packaged, reasonably priced (about $10), fresh and delicious, I have the excitement of a child at Christmas when I open one every time!

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