There’s something very appropriate about Japanese pianist Reiko Fujisawa playing at this year’s Festival of Chichester.
Apart from Gatwick airport, Chichester was the first place she saw when she moved to the UK 24 years ago.
Reiko will be offering a recital on Sunday, June 14 at 5pm in the Chapel of the Ascension, University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester with an enticing programme featuring masterpieces by Beethoven (Waldstein Sonata) and Chopin (24 Preludes) and Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II.
Reiko took up the piano at the age of three. It was an unusual direction for the traditional family background in which she grew up in the most southerly of Japan’s four main islands: her parents played traditional Japanese instruments but were keen for Reiko to expand her musical horizons. Reiko went on to study at the Musashino University of Music in Tokyo but was eager to further her knowledge abroad. She spent time in San Francisco but, with the high density of Japanese in the city, it all felt too close to home.
She then chose to follow the example of one of her Japanese piano teachers and travelled to the UK. There she trained at Trinity College with Martino Tirimo, Benjamin Kaplan and Yonty Solomon. She has been in London ever since.
“When I came to England, a long time ago, my first place was Chichester,” she recalls. “I arrived at Gatwick airport, and my friend had told me before going to London, I should stay in the really nice countryside of England somewhere, to understand the atmosphere. My friend lived in Chichester, and I followed her. I know Chichester very well. I was there for just about a year, and that was 24 years ago. I had a summer opportunity to perform in the cathedral a long time ago, and when I go to Chichester, I feel very much at home.”
Initially, after leaving Japan, Reiko had gone to America: “For Japanese people to go to America, it is very easy. Everybody thinks it is the thing to do. But I found it not so different from Japan. I wanted to play classical music, and I thought I wanted to understand it more deeply, and I didn’t really get this kind of feeling in America, and that’s why I chose to come to London. London was a bit of a culture shock. It was very different. I found it very difficult culturally, but from a musical point of view, I found that it was the right place for me to study. The most important thing is making the right challenges when you are studying the piano, and London felt right for me.”
Reiko has gone on to establish herself as a formidable virtuoso performer on the concert platform. She made her debut at the Southbank Centre in 1999, at the Wigmore Hall in 2003 and performed with the Soloists of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the inaugural season at Cadogan Hall in London in 2006. She has since made appearances at prestigious venues all over the UK and overseas. Her UK festival performances include Brighton, Belfast and Warwick, Leamington and now Chichester.
Culturally, she reckons she is now half and half, half Japanese, half western: “And I think that’s a very good thing to be! For me, it is a very convenient thing to be!”
Tickets for Reiko’s Festival of Chichester concert are £15; students £5; children £3.