New "Davidsbuendler"

New Resident Chamber Music Group Created at Art Tower Mito: New "Davidsbuendler"

david_imgIn December 2010, an new resident chamber music group debuted at Art Tower Mito named the New "Davidsbuendler".
The members of the New "Davidsbuendler" are musician friends of the internationally-active young violinist Sayaka Shoji, whose idea it was to form the group. She invited Shunsuke Sato on the violin, Danjulo Ishizaka on the violoncello, and Yu Kosuge on the piano, as members. To round out the ensemble, she also asked the venerable violist Kazuhide Isomura - a master chamber musician whom she respects highly - to join the group.
The five internationally-active members of the New "Davidsbuendler" will assemble in Mito from around the world in order to carry out intensive rehearsals before giving their concerts. The original Davidsbuendler ("League of David" in German) was an imaginary music society conceived by the great Romantic composer Robert Schumann for the purpose of achieving true artistic creation that would stand in opposition to vulgarity and that would defend contemporary music against its detractors. He named it after David of the Old Testament, said to have repelled and defeated the heretic Philistines with his intelligence and bravery.The members of the group - including Florestan and Eusebius, who represented two sides of Schumann's personality - primarily carried out music criticism, introducing the true value of the music of such Romantic composers as Mendelssohn, Chopin and Berlioz to the world.
Moving forward across time to the 21st century, the New "Davidsbuendler" being created at Art Tower Mito is a chamber music group centering around young musicians of the next generation, resonating with the musical ideals of Schumann upon the 200th anniversary of his birth. It brings together the finest Japanese musicians of the latest generation, who will passionately pursue the form of the ideal musical expression of the new era.

Profiles of Group Members

Sayaka Shoji, Violin

Photo: Balazs Borocz and Pilvax Studio
The youngest-ever winner of the Paganini International Violin Competition in 1999 (not to mention the first Japanese ever to win that prize), Shoji has gone on to perform under such esteemed conductors as Mariss Jansons, Zubin Mehta, Charles Dutoit, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Myung-whung Chung. She played with such famous orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bavarian State Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. Besides a busy recital schedule, she has performed chamber music throughout Europe with such eminent musicians as Vadim Repin, Mikhail Pletnev, and Steven Isserlis.

So far, Shoji has released six albums on the Deutsche Grammophon label. In spring 2011, she also released a two-disc album of violin solo works by J. S. Bach and Max Reger from the Mirare label.

Her many prizes include the Tokyo Citizens Cultural Medal of Honor in 1999 and the Idemitsu Music Award in 2000. Her performances of the Ligeti Violin Concerto with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 2009 won rave reviews, garnering her the 60th Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists. Shoji plays on a 1729 Stradivarius, the "Recamier," on loan from Honorary Chairman Ryuzo Ueno of Ueno Fine Chemicals Industry, Ltd.

Shunsuke Sato, Violin

Photo: Hisanori Takebayashi
Having developed a superior technique and rich musicality, Sato initiated his international career in New York and Philadelphia, now residing in Europe. At the early age of nine years old, he won the student competition of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Besides having played with such major Japanese orchestras as the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Sato has performed with various major western orchestras, such as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. He is now engaged in an active recital circuit of major cities in Europe, the United States, and Japan. Currently, he has shifted the base of his activities from Paris to Munich, where he is working hard to refine his period-instrument performance skills.

Sato's recordings include "Eugene Ysaye: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27," "Preludes: Favorite Miniatures," and "Edvard Grieg: Complete Sonatas for Violin and Piano" (all available from Live Notes). The Grieg CD recording won the Grand Prize awarded by the Japanese Government's Agency for Cultural Affairs in the 62nd National Arts Festival. His latest release, "Nicolo Paganini: 24 Caprices, op.1," went on sale in 2009 under the UCJ Japan label. His many awards include the 15th Idemitsu Music Award, the 2006 Washington Prize, and the 9th Hotel Okura Music Award of 2007.

He currently plays on a 2007 Stephan von Baehr instrument made in Paris.

Kazuhide Isomura, Viola

david_isomuraIsomura studied violin at the Toho Academy in Tokyo under Jeanne Isnard and Kenji Kobayashi, also learning chamber music at the same school from Hideo Saito. In 1968, he entered the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied the violin under Ivan Galamian, the viola under Walter Trampler, and chamber music under Robert Mann and Raphael Hillyer.

In the autumn of 1969, he founded the Tokyo String Quartet together with colleagues from Toho and Juilliard. They passed the International Young Artist Audition in 1970, placing first in the String Quartet division of the Munich International Music Competition, which created a name for them internationally. They gave his debut recital in New York in the fall of the same year. Thereafter, he has continued activities with the Tokyo String Quartet for a full four decades, basing himself in New York but giving concerts throughout the world.

Isomura has also been actively involved with guidance and training in chamber music for many years, serving as a professor at the Yale University, and leading many chamber music master classes in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

The Tokyo String Quartet has recorded a broad repertoire of chamber works, stretching from those of Haydn to 21st-century pieces. Many of those recordings have won awards, including the Swiss Montreux Record Award, the British Gramophone Award for the best chamber music record of the year; the group has also been nominated for a Grammy Award seven times. Besides his recordings with the Tokyo String Quartet, Isomura has also personally released CDs of viola solos and sonatas.

He performs on a 1731 Stradivarius, the "Paganini," lent to him by the Nippon Music Foundation.

Danjulo Ishizaka, violoncello

Photo: Marco Borggreve
Born in Germany, Ishizaka studied under Boris Pergamenschikow and Bernard Greenhouse, among others. He won the Gaspar Cassado (1998), the Lutoslawski (1999), the ARD Munich (2001), and the Berlin Emanuel Feuermann (2002) Competitions, as well as the Prix Young Artist of the Year Award in 2003. His 2006 debut CD was awarded the ECHO Klassik New Performer Award by the German Phono Akademie. He was also chosen as an artist in the BBC's Rising Music Star Program, which allowed him to record solo music and concertos with BBC ensembles, as well as the chance to play recitals around Britain.

Ishizaka has performed under such renowned conductors as Mstislav Rostropovich, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Roger Norrington, the Russian Michail Jurowski, Jiri Kout, Gerd Albrecht, and Sir Andrew Davis, and with such important orchestras as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the RSO Berlin, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the RSO Frankfurt, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He made his Japanese debut in 2004 with the NHK Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has collaborated with such well-known musicians as Gidon Kremer, Tabea Zimmermann, Lars Vogt, Julia Fischer, Julian Rachlin, Renaud Capucon, Sharon Kam, Francois Leleux, and Maxim Vengerov.

Ishizaka plays on a 1997 Wolfgang Schnabel violoncello provided to him by the Kronberg Academy of Germany, and on a 1696 Stradivarius violoncello, the "Lord Aylesford," on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.

Yu Kosuge, Piano

Photo: Steffen Janicke
Having completed studies as a youngster in the music classroom of the Tokyo College of Music, Kosuge moved to Europe in 1993, and has continued to live there ever since. Having further polished and perfected her technique in Europe, she now performs concerts in more than 40 locations yearly, performing with first-rate conductors and orchestras as well as playing with chamber groups. Kosuge has been invited to appear in many international music festivals, including those in Salzburg, Rheingau, Schleswig-Holstein, and the La Roque d'Antheron piano festival, steadily expanding the breadth of her activities. Her sophisticated technique and beautiful tone quality combine with a youthful sensibility and deep understanding of the repertoire, garnering much attention in Europe and winning the highest acclaim (her pianissimo has been likened to 'the moment when the tip of an angel's wing touches one's cheek,' Frankfurter Allgemeine). Her complete recording of Chopin's Etudes won a five-star rating from Phono Forum magazine in 2000. In addition, she received the 13th Nippon Steel Music Award 2002, the Washington Award 2004 in the USA, the 8th Hotel Okura Award in 2006, and the 17th Idemitsu Music Award in 2007.

At Art Tower Mito, she previously performed Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in the 75th Regular Concert of the Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO) under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, again winning superlative praise. The recording of her performance at that concert is available on CD (Sony) as well as on Blue-Ray/DVD (NHK Enterprise).

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