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Virtual Musicale December 3rd with Toshiko Asano

Today's meeting was a culturally diverse experience, with Japanese guest artist Toshiko Asano playing and explaining Polish idiosyncracies. A number of members were able to communicate with Ms. Toshiko in Japanese, and we all were able to communicate in "Mazurka." In attendance were Karen Bunn, Judy Darst, Sam Smith, David Lee, Michael Brounoff, Carol Wazlavek, Ruth Purcell, Ed Ewing, and of course, our fearless leader, Utako.

Ms. Toshiko Asano received the 2nd prize at the Fryderyk Chopin Competition for Amateur Pianists in Warsaw Poland in 2012, as well as many other awards. She plays actively in many concerts and competitions. Her interpretation of Chopin and Schumann is highly recognized. The juror members in Poland praised that she truly understood Chopin's Mazurkas. Her performance today included Mazurka Op. 24 No.1, 2, 3, 4 Mazurka Op. 50 No. 1, 3 Mazurka Op. 56 No. 1, 2, 3

Karen asked how Toshiko knew to interpret the rubato in Op.24 No.1, Toshiko answered that her (Japanese) teacher instructed her to that effect. She studied at Keio University, a private prestigious college in Tokyo.

Utako mentioned that she had obtained a book while she was in Poland that included information on the 3 folk dances that are usually present in Mazurkas: the Mazur, the Melodious Kujawiak, and the Obereck. A Mazur is a quick lively dance with distinct and varied accentuation.

David asked how does Toshiko approach interpreting each Mazurka, and how does she play the many variations - does she tell a story?

Toshiko answered that you just have to feel how the story changes. She makes up different scenes to give variety to the repetitions. But the feeling of the piece comes first, in many cases, a sadness.

Karen asked a question relating music found in the study of dance, which is counted in groups of 8 measures or 8 counts, to this dance form. A mazurka, a folk music dance form, falls into irregular measures and counts, it does not come out even.

Toshiko answered that No 3 is not so much a dance, it is more melancholy.

David commented that he was really enjoying op.56 now after this last edition of the Chopin competition. He said that he wasn’t too familiar with this set before. He was curious if Toshiko-san watched any of the competition, and if she had a favorite performer, and whose mazurkas she enjoyed the most.

Utako answered that Toshiko had mentioned that she loved Kissin's Carnegie live CD. Other comments and questions:

  • It's interesting comparing the different Opuses.

  • Toshiko is planning to play all the 50+ mazurkas sometime.

  • How does Toshiko compare the different opuses? Do they each have their own personality? What period of time do they encompass?

Since we were running out of time, Utako said she would ask Toshiko to answer these questions either separately, or in another session.

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Gail Ravin Starr
Gail Ravin Starr
Dec 06, 2021

Carol, I love how you poetically said we all communicate in "Mazurka". It's true! Thank you for this lovely summary. I wasn't able to attend, but now I feel like I WAS there.

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