I got a chance to go to listen to Mari Kawamura at Suntory Hall in Tokyo yesterday. She performed a very rich program of Shumann, Satie, Debussy and Mussorgski. She has studied piano in France and in the US and released one CD so far. I liked her no-nonsense style and relaxed interaction with the audience. English website here:
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find anything by her on Youtube, but here is the Prélude from Suite Bergamasque by Debussy.
Both Satie and especially Claude Debussy are well known and liked in Japan. Debussy even asked the printers to put the now famous Hokusai image, The Hollow of the Great Wave of Kanagawa on the cover page of the musical score for his La Mer (The Ocean).
mellowmarie, an avid art appreciation blogger, writes:
as i noted before, i myself had always sensed japanese tones in his melodies and had wondered if he had ever been influenced by japanese traditional music. it is interesting to learn that he was influenced by japonism.
in a webpage from the Department of Music, Trinity College, Dublin that just happened to hit, it says that debussy was influeced by japanese prints by hokusai hakushika. but i still don't get it. why could he get the japanese melodies by just observing prints? had he ever had any access to actual japanese music performed? or did he happen to have japanese melodies just by impressions he got from prints and other material arts? this is really a fascinating topic that i would return later.
And her link to the tcd.ie webpage is a real gem, with the following details:
Hokusai's painting shows a wave breaking over into spray, foam, and smaller waves. It is an image of terror, elegance, and awesome power, simultaneously through Hokusai's usage of perspective. In a study of Hokusai's work in 1896, Edmond de Goncourt writes,"The design for The Wave is a deified version of the sea made by a painter who lived in a religious terror of the overwhelming sea surrounding his country on all sides; it is a design which is impressive by the sudden anger of its leap into the sky, by the deep blue of the transparent inner side of its curve, by the splitting of its crest which is thus scattered into a shower of tiny drops having the shape of animals' claws."
This vivid yet suggestive imagery is very well suited to the spirit of Debussy's works. It is seen in Debussy's view of nature, which is typically vague, dreamy, with a type of "luminosity." La Mer is an obvious example and will be dealt with further on in the paper.
That cover for the tune that took Europe by storm (hrm) in 1905 looked like this:
And was created by Hokusai in 1831, some 65 years earlier, when it looked like this:
Valery Gergiev conducts the London Symphony Orchestra performing Debussy's La Mer. Recorded in March, 2007 at the Barbican in London.
I had the pleasure to enjoy Valery Gergiev conducting twice a few years ago in Tokyo, including at the Suntory Hall. Unforgetable. I even took a few photos, and immediately, hall staff was on hand urging everyone not to retain such a small but obviously valuable memento. OK, that's not what they said. I still have the photos. They mean a lot to me.