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"I am searching for a new form of Japanese spiritual culture and music, one through which I can remain true to myself as well as to my origins. We need to examine the Western world again, more carefully, in order to see ourselves objectively and to truly get to know ourselves."
Toshio Hosokawa, Japan’s preeminent living composer, constantly explores the boundaries between cultures. His distinctive compositions examine the relationship between Western avant-garde art and traditional Japanese culture, and are influenced by the static structures of the Gagaku music of the Japanese court. Nature and its inherent transience also greatly influence his compositions. "Transience is beautiful", says Hosokawa, who uses the Buddhist notion of balance between life and death to describe his musical language: "The tone comes from silence, it lives, it returns to silence."
Born in Hiroshima in 1955, Toshio Hosokawa came to Berlin in 1976 to study composition with Isang Yun. He continued his studies with Klaus Huber and Brian Ferneyhough. Initially, Hosokawa based his music on the Western avant-garde, but he soon began to explore new musical terrain, composing his first opera Vision of Lear to great acclaim in a style that brought together eastern and western influences. His second opera Hanjo (2004) is regularly programmed by opera houses and festivals.
Hosokawa made a name for himself at new music festivals in the early 90s with chamber music works such as Landscapes I-V. Following the success of his oratorio Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima and of his orchestral work Circulating Ocean, which the Vienna Philharmonic premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2005, his music began to be performed in eminent concert halls around the world. He has written many solo works, such as the cello concerto Chant which he wrote for Rohan de Saram and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in 2009, part of a series of works for solo instruments and ensemble that he began in 2003. Japanese instruments are utilised in many of his over 160 works, often combined with traditional European instruments. Chamber music is still a big part of Hosokawa’s compositional output. In 2008, Hosokawa wrote Stunden-Blumen, a quartet with the same instrumentation as Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps.
A great number of Toshio Hosokawa’s larger works received their premieres in the last three seasons, including Woven Dreams (Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, Lucerne Festival), Sternlose Nacht (Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the WDR Choir under Kent Nagano, Baden-Baden) and his horn concerto Moment of Blossoming (Berlin Philharmonica, soloist: Stefan Dohr). The premiere of the opera Matsukaze, staged by Sasha Waltz, in May 2011 at the Monnaie in Brussels was a great success, and was followed by performances at the Staatsoper Berlin and in Warsaw and Luxembourg. The world premiere of his composition Singing Garden, inspired by Vivaldi‘s concertos for recorder, was performed by recorder soloist Jeremias Schwarzer at the Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin. Hosokawa‘s work Blossoming II for chamber orchestra, which was premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, received an enthusiastic response. In spring 2012, his new work for ensemble and soprano entitled The Raven, based on the correspondent text by Edgar Allan Poe, was premiered in Brussels by the ensemble United Instruments of Lucilin conducted by Hosokawa himself; his composition Meditation, dedicated to the victims of the Tsunami disaster in Fukushima, was first performed at the Tongyeong International Music Festival in March.
The 2013/2014 season began with two world premieres at the Salzburg Festival, during which numerous older works by Hosokawa were also performed. The first work to be heard was Klage for soprano and orchestra, based on a text by Georg Trakl (NHK Symphony Orchestra under Charles dutoit, Anna Prohaska), as well as Ancient Voices for wind quintet, commissioned by Ensemble Wien-Berlin. The trumpet concerto entitled Im Nebel, inspired by Hermann Hesse’s poem and commissioned by Suntory Hall and North German Broadcasting, will come to Tokyo with the trumpeter Jeroen Berwaerts and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra under Jun Märkl for its world premiere and will be performed again in Hamburg in March 2014. A new piano trio for the Spanish Trío Arbós will also be performed in September at the Festival Musica Strasbourg.
Furthermore, Toshio Hosokawa is composer in residence for the current season with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and is composing piano études for Momo Kodama for the Lucerne Festival at the Piano in 2013. The Hilliard Ensemble, who are due to retire at the end of their 40th anniversary year, will perform premieres of arrangements of three Japanese folk songs in January 2014.
Toshio Hosokawa has received numerous awards and prizes. He has been a member of the Academy of Fine Arts Berlin since 2001 and a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin since 2006. He is the artistic director of the Takefu International Music Festival and a frequent guest at prominent contemporary music festivals, such as the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan, the Salzburg Biennale, the Rheingau Musik Festival, and the MITO SettembreMusica Festival in Milan and Turin. In spring 2012 he was composer in residence at the Tongyeong International Music Festival. In summer 2012, he began a three year appointment as artistic director of the Suntory Hall International Program for Music Composition.