Hanae Nakajima

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Hanae Nakajima

Some forty or so years ago, BBC Record Review [the precursor to today's CD Review programme] in its Building A Library section did a comparison of all the extant versions of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. The reviewer was Joseph Cooper, whom some UK residents may recall used to run a music quiz on TV with his famous "dummy" keyboard. He was a very competent pianist himself and made a number of records for Decca, I think

Comparing all the versions available of this work at the time, Mr Cooper came up with a surprising winner. It was played by Hanae Nakajima with the Nuremberg Philharmonic conducted [I think] by Rato Tschupp [my spelling may be incorrect here]. The recording was available in the UK on, I think, the Wing label [or possibly Windmill], which was a Woolworths product. Being an impecunious youth, I sought out a copy and really enjoyed it, though I didn't think it would compare with some of the great pianists of the day. It cost me the sum of 10 shillings [50p] when a full price record was over £2.

Though my copy of the disc is long gone, I remembered it clearly and a few years ago came across a CD of the performance on the Everyman label, an inexpensive imprint which featured mainly Eastern European orchestras not of the front rank in sometimes doubtful performances. I bought it and listened again [now coupled with Liszt PC No 2]. The artist's name is spelled differently [Nahajima] and the conductor is given as Othmar M F Maga. However, I am sure it is the same performance as that on the LP from the 1970s.

The pianism is excellent, though the orchestral contribution, albeit responsive, is a little thin. The accompaniment in the finale is rather plodding too - presumably the fault of the conductor. The recording - by modern standards - is a little basic also, but perfectly acceptable. These are minor quibbles, however. I have enjoyed listening to this marvellous disc on many occasions but have failed to find out anything about this artist.

Does anyone know anything about her - or was this a pseudonym of someone more famous? Did she make any other recordings? 

RE: Hanae Nakajima

Hi Spadger,

The Nakajima Beethoven Concertos are available to download from iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/beethoven-piano-concertos/id291550611

Also on iTunes is Nakajima's recording of Ravel's Miroirs:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/ravel-miroirs-for-piano/id375976740

And the Beethoven Bagatelles:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/beethoven-7-bagatelles-op.-33/id370353598

Happy listening!

James McCarthy, Online Content Editor for Gramophone, Songlines and Jazzwise

RE: Hanae Nakajima

Spadger, you've made my day! As soon as I saw the title of your post, my heart skipped a beat. I never thought anyone would mention this in a month of Sundays.

I remember very well listening to that Record Review (oh for the days of Paul Vaughan and Cormac Rigby!) and, as a similarly impecunious youth, purchasing the LP. Like yours, that is now long gone, but it was the recording from which I learnt the work and I have long cherished it. My CD is on the Spectrum label (coupled with No.1) and I agree with every word you've written about the performance.

I shall play it again tonight in thanks to you and then explore further via Spotify.

Thanks once more!

JKH

RE: Hanae Nakajima RE: Hanae Nakajima

Thank you to both James and JKH. I am delighted that other recordings of this artist are available and shall explore them on iTunes today. I have an iTunes birthday  Gift Token on my desk which hasn't yet been used, so this will make a perfect solution to my buying dilemma.

JKH - mentioning the names of Messrs Paul Vaughan and Cormac Rigby unleashed a flood of happy memories. I even go back to the days of Anna Instone and Julian Herbage when the world was a very different place from today and the BBC a serious force in classical music. When I listen to the dreadful Sara Mohr-Pietsch and the appalling Petroc Trelawny these days, I do wonder where the BBC went wrong and I have to turn to the 'Off' botton. There are still good presenters, at the BBC, of course, Rob Cowan and Andrew McGregor being two examples, but the standards today are so low that most of the presenters wouldn't have got through the door in the old days. However, I digress.....

One thing that neither JKH nor  James have been able to help with is any more detail on Hanae Nakajima herself. Is she still playing? Is  there any biographical information at all? I should love to hear more about this pianist whose performance of the Emperor Concerto has given me so much pleasure over the years.    

RE: Hanae Nakajima RE: Hanae Nakajima

Hi JKH and Spadger. 

Yes, how things have changed since the days of the Third Programme (on 194m and 464m).  I too remember Anna Instone and Julian Herbage, even more soGerald Moore playing An die Musik to introduce the Music Magazine every sunday morning. Long before Record Review became a regular programme, there was a series Composer and Interpreter in which a chairman played extracts from different recordings of a given work.  The work was discussed in detail with a panel of critics, who then had to comment on dfferent recorded performances, without being told who the performers were. I don't remember much about who was involved except once when the work was Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto, Thurston Dart was on the panel and his recording was one of those being discussed!

Different days indeed: when classical music was definitely superior (for Third Programme listeners at least), chamber music was the elite (to quote a recent post elsewhere) and Gramophone would never have thought it necessary to state the obvious (that it carried the world's best classical reviews). Speaking of Liberals would probably have put more people in mind of Gladstone rather than Jo Grimond, unless you lived in the Orekney Islands. The Guardian was still the Manchester Guardian. Up was up and down was down! Golden memories for us 'oldies'.

But we forget that the Third Programme was only broadcast in the evenings from 6pm (sometimes only from 8pm) except on Sundays, and not only for music but for all the arts, and most people were probably blissfully unaware of its existence altogether, until the wavelengths started to be used for the cricket too.

But I do remember the storm caused by Joseph Cooper's Emperor recommendation. At least no-one could say that the BBC was in the hands of the record companies. In fact there was a strict limit on the hours of broadcasting of commercial records.

Except for the presenters (I completely agree with you Spadger), even if only 20% of what is put out on Radio Three were any good it would still be more than the total Third Programme output.  Perhaps we should be grateful.

Chris

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Hanae Nakajima

Yes, Chris, perhaps we should be grateful, and it does sometimes cross my mind that we are living through a Golden Age of Recorded Music at the moment without being aware of it. So many recordings of works that would never have seen the inside of a recording studio in the 'good old' days. Some of it most certainly not worth recording [but who knows what posterity's judgement on these pieces might be], but at least we now have the opportunity to decide for ourselves on the merits of each work. In the past, provincial concert goers like myself would probably never have heard many of these works at all.

Radio 3 is what it is, I suppose, and you are right to say that even if a small percentage of its output is worthwhile, then we should be grateful for that. I suspect that my tolerance for the second rate has diminished over the years, and at its best it is very good. At its worst, however, it makes Classic FM look like a world beater......

I have downloaded the other Beethoven recordings from Nakajima from iTunes, and very good they are too. Not having listened to the five piano concerti in quick succession for a long time, I was reminded of just how wonderful they are and how easily we take such masterpieces for granted. Oh for the innocent ear once again! I wish I could find out anything more about the pianist, however. 

RE: Hanae Nakajima

Spadger, get over it. The girl got away, in one or the other way, as so many aspiring, talented and very gifted pianists, violinists etc.

Just very recently, a great, very promising young Romanian pianist named Mihaela Ursuleasa died at the age of 33! She had managed to record only two solo CDs, on Berlin Classics, and she participated on another one with cellist Sol Gabetta, on RCA. Gramophone had an obituary for her, but who cared anyway. Artists come and go all the time. Most of them remain as "unsung heroes".

Unfortunately, that's the way it is.

Parla

RE: Hanae Nakajima

I have an
LP with The Emperor Concerto, with The Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted
by Rato Tschupp, and  Hanae Nakajima as
soloist. The LP is produced in 1973 and the label is Windmill. I found the
recording transparency and especially the treble was very nice! I have 60 other
soloists to compare with this concerto. It’s sad not to found her biography!

Update

Mrs. Hanae Nakajima, besides her international career as a performing and recording artist, was for 30 years a teacher at the Leopold Mozart music academy in Augsburg, Germany. In spring 2014, she recorded the complete piano works of Domenico Scarlatti in Japan. On Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 she will play Beethoven's piano concerto No. 4 in G major with the local amateur chamber orchestra at the occasion of the 750 year anniversary of Friedberg (a small town near Augsburg), where she currently lives.

Biography

 I think I am now prepared to make an each way bet that Isiah Diesenhaus, who once was credited on a rather dubious cheap 50s LP with conducting a Beethoven Ninth in which Wunderlich was listed as a soloist might actually have been a real person.   Räto Tschupp (1929-2002) certainly was.  Not only that, he was a champion of Swiss contemporary music, the founder of Camerata Zurich, and for a while a teacher of conducting at the Hochschule for Musik in Karlsruhe.  How on earth did that Beethoven concerto series come to be made?

Peter Street

Isaie Disenhaus

Yes he was - Belgian, (1924-2006) greatly respected for his erudition, and and a habit of going stright to the point.  Associated with the Belgian equivalent of the Third Programme in later life.  He also played the piano in Brussels night clubs through the German occupation.  Does anyone still have that Ninth?

Peter Street

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