Toshio Hosokawa

Composer

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Caroline Scholz

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Biography

"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 pre-eminent 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 critical 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 1990s 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 distinguished concert halls around the world. He has written many solo works, such as the cello concerto Chant, which was premiered by Rohan de Saram and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne in 2009, Voyages, part of a series of works for solo instruments and ensemble that he began in 2003, and the concerto for trumpet and orchestra Moment of Blossoming for Stefan Dohr and the Berlin Philharmonic (2011). 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 he 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 have received their premieres in the last few years, including Woven Dreams (Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, Lucerne Festival), and Sternlose Nacht (Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the WDR Choir under Kent Nagano, Baden-Baden). The premiere of the opera Matsukaze, staged by Sasha Waltz, in May 2011 at La 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 soloist Jeremias Schwarzer at the Akademie für Alte Musik in Berlin. In spring 2012, his monodrama The Raven for mezzo-soprano and ensemble was premiered in Brussels, and his composition Meditation, dedicated to the victims of the Tsunami disaster in Fukushima, was first performed at the Tongyeong International Music Festival in March of the same year. At last year’s Salzburg Festival, Klage for soprano and orchestra, based on a text by Georg Trakl (NHK Symphony Orchestra under Charles dutoit, Anna Prohaska) was performed for the first time. The trumpet concerto Im Nebel, inspired by Hermann Hesse’s poem and commissioned by Suntory Hall and North German Broadcasting, came to Tokyo with the trumpeter Jeroen Berwaerts and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra under Jun Märkl for its world premiere in 2013 and was performed again in 2014 in Hamburg in March and Tokyo in June.

The 2014/15 season started with the world premieres of two pieces for orchestra: firstly Aeolus for harp and orchestra (Naoko Yoshino and Scottish Chamber Orchestra), followed by Fluss for string quartet and orchestra (Arditti Quartet and WDR Symphony Orchestra). Following its world premiere in Cologne, Fluss was performed at the Concertgebouw Bruges, which dedicated a three-day-festival to the works of Toshio Hosokawa.

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, Salzburg Biennale, 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. He has been Artistic Director of the Suntory Hall International Program for Music Composition since 2012.

2014/15 season