My viola debut
- at the regular concert of the Furtwaengler Institute Philharmonic Orchestra Tokyo

Viola players of the Furtwängler Institute Philharmonic Orchestra Tokyo
At the beginning of this year I started to play viola in addition to violin. In the Suginami Philharmonic Orchestra (Sugi-Phil), I switched my instrument from violin to viola and rehearse now the Overture to Rosamunde by Schubert, Symphony No.40 by Mozart and Symphony No.8 by Drovak. Due to the technical level of Sugi-Phil we have only one public concert and rehearse as long as ten months. When I felt bored of the long continuing rehearsal, I got a chance to play in another orchestra, Furtwängler Institute Philharmonic Orchestra Tokyo, as extra to play Symphony No.6 by Bruckner and Symphony Nr.94 by Haydn. The 23rd regular concert took place on the last Saturday after two months rehearsal and that was my debut concert as violist.

Since long I thought of playing viola. I came to this idea when I played string quartet with my friends at the Studentenphilharmonie Tübingen. My playmates were Rada (violin, American), Michael (viola, German) and Martin (Cello, German). (*) I was then very impressed by Michael, because he proposed to play viola in the quartet, while he used to play violin in the orchestra. Michael told me that he played both instruments from childhood as it was necessary for home music.
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My viola
Years later, I got to know Søren in Copenhagen. He was, like Michael, a good violinist and violist at the same time. Therefore, when we tried new pieces he adjusted to the availability of players, while I had to stick to violin, as I could play only violin. Soeren was an outstanding example, but I found that many violin players could play viola as well in Denmark ... maybe in other European countries, though I have not checked.

In fact, many viola players in Japan were originally violin players. It has become a sort of tradition of Tora-kyo that veteran violin players take up viola when they get older and want to play technically less demanding instrument. But, I do not know many amateur players who freely switch between violin and viola.

After coming back from Denmark, it became my wish to play viola myself and play both instruments according to the necessity. Then, it happened that a friend of Tora-kyo wanted to sell one of his violas, the cheaper one! I rented the instrument for a month or so and decided to buy it at the very reasonable price of 50,000 yen (about 500 US dollars) including a bow, a case, a shoulder rest and a half melted rosin.

He insisted that the instrument was NOT made in China but in Europe, but he could not prove it because there was no label inside the instrument. However, the instrument sounds fairly well except for the highest A-string, which coarse sound instead of smooth velvet-like sound I prefer. But, Maeda-san, our fellow violin maker, tells me that it is pity of the instrument that it was sold at 50,000 yen; we cannot buy even raw materials for a viola at such low price.

About to start our "General Probe"

The hall was small but comfortable.

Funabori Tower Hall of Edogawa Ward is located just in front of Funabori station of Shinjuku subway line.
Anyhow, the first stage was enjoyable enough. Mr. Noguchi, representative of the Furtwaengler Institute Tokyo and conductor of its orchestra, is the admirer of Bruckner as orthodox German-Austrian composer and respects Haydn as father of the Symphony, the representative form of German-Austrian classical music. He is enthusiastic to transmit his excitement to the players at various places and invites them to feel moved by the music and play with passion.

He is an expert of Bruckner and has his strong personal opinion concerning different versions, which are characteristic for Bruckner's symphonies. For the sixth symphony Noguchi-san used more or less the additions given by Bruckner's disciples, because Noguchi-san thought that their interpretations often give him useful ideas. But, he omitted those which he thought inappropriate. Therefore, our rehearsal started with the checking whether certain additional interpretations should be retained or dropped. Then, Noguchi-san gave his own ideas to better present Bruckner's work. For us viola players, the sixth symphony is a very impressive and entertaining work. Fortunately there are not much tremolos which cause aching arms in other Bruckner's symphonies.

Haydn's Surprise is more simply composed, but very dynamic and thrilling as well. Usually I do not have chances to play Haydn's symphonies, because we should not make our many brass instrument players jobless. Therefore, this concert was an experience for me. When I was young, I was not much interested in Haydn's music, because it is not romantic enough. However, as I get old, I find his music really rich in inspirations and vitality.

I would like to thank our viola mates for the good ensemble and friendship, though I was with them only for two months. I want to have another chance to play together with them.