How does one become a specialist in the music of Claude Debussy? He doesn’t seem to be the warhorse kind of composer the way Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt are.
But Noriko Ogawa, 54, a Steinway artist who recently visited Manila for an exclusive concert and a lecture-recital open at the Santiago Hall of the BDO Corporate Center in Makati, knew that Debussy was “it” for her when she first saw someone performing his music on TV.
She used to sneak out to go to a music store. There she’d play Debussy pieces on a piano until she estimated that her absence would be noticed by her mother, then she’d return home. She recalled, “The pressure from my parents was incredibly great. It was very suffocating for me, but now I’m grateful to them. I can just cry thinking of them.”
She was something of a “wild child” but one who never forgot to practice her piano until the day came in her teens when her teacher told her she needed to speak to her parents. At the time, she played on a Yamaha. Nervous and all wrought up before the teacher-parent meeting, she overheard the teacher say, “Your child needs a better instrument like a Steinway.”
Being macho, her stoic father, replied, “I’ll get her one.” Her mother, although a piano teacher, was against the idea or maybe thought the family couldn’t afford a Steinway. The father kept his word, telling his daughter, “This is the last thing I’ll buy you.” Ogawa laughed, “Which is true!”
Ogawa went on to win the Leeds International Piano Competition. The Telegraph described her performance as “ravishingly poetic playing.” She is also the translator of Susan Tomes’s book “Out of Silence,” a pianist’s yearbook that has been reprinted several times. After the tsunami in Japan in 2011, she raised over 40,000 euros for the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Fund.
She is the founder of Jamie’s Concerts, a series for autistic children and parents, and cultural ambassador of the National Austistic Society.—CONTRIBUTED