Furtwängler′s piano concerto - Our guest soloist Maestro Stephan Möller

10 minutes before the last rehearsal

Sakura Hall, where our performance took place, is a community center in Edogawa Ward

Program with a photo of Wilheml and Elisabeth Furtwängler

Last Sunday Furtwängler Institute Philharmonic Orchestra Tokyo held a regular concert and performed Furtwängler′s Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in b-minor with the soloist Stephan Möller from Vienna.

As I explained in an earlier article, 2011 is the 125th birth year of Wilhelm Furtwängler and this concert was one of the program items of "Wilhelm Furtwängler Fest Tokyo 2011" organized by the Furtwängler Institute Tokyo. Mr. Noguchi, the representative of the Institute and the conductor of the orchestra, succeeded in getting a celebration message from Frau Elisabeth Furtwängler. She expressed her appreciation for the festival and her satisfaction that Japanese people are interested in Furtwängler not only as conductor but also as composer.

After the earthquake and the accident at a nuclear power plant foreign musicians cancel performances in Japan one after another, though the life in Japan is absolutely safe except for the limited areas near the nuclear plant. Some musicians cancel performances which are to take place in very distant places such as Miyazaki, Kyushu. Miyazaki is some 1,000km away from Fukushima and this is approximately the same distance between Chernobyl and Munich. I cannot blame those artists who hesitate to come over to Miyaszaki, when for example the German Embassy in Japan evacuated hastily from Tokyo to Osaka and advised travellers to "avoid all non-essential travel to … Tokyo".

They have enough reason for that, though Japanese people on their side have every reason not to respect them but to appreciate the brave behavior of 18,000 American soldiers to stay in the hazard area to help the victims. After the end of the immediate rescue works, more than 5000 soldiers and more than 100 nuclear experts stayed in Japan to assist us in fighting against the accident. Though we do not overlook the political motivation behind the American decision, we are definitely impressed by the reliability of the Americans in case of difficulty. Likewise Pinchas Zukerman volunteered to fill the vacancy in the music program in Miyazaki to "cheer up Japan". We learn an English proverb in schools "A friend in need is a friend indeed".

In this context, we cannot express too much gratitude to Maestro Möller, who firmly kept his promise to play the long and difficult piano concerto together with an amateur orchestra in Japan, came to Japan without much financial reward and even rehearsed twice on two weekends before the concert on Sunday.


Stephan Möller was born in Hamburg and studied piano and conducting at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. From 1983 to 1989, he worked at the Salzburg Festival with Herbert von Karajan and other world-renowned conductors.

Since 1990, he holds a teaching position at the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna. He is frequently invited to hold master classes and lectures. 1999 he founded the "VIP Academy", a successful summer festival for young pianists in Vienna. He is president of the Vienna International Pianists Association.

(source: Internationale Meisterkurse Mistelbach)

A snap-shot during the rehearsal

Möller-sensei checking the piano

To tell frankly, the Furtwängler′s piano concerto is not an easy piece to enjoy. It is very long - longer than an hour. It is written in the late romantic style and therefore certainly easier for average music listeners to accept compared with Schönberg’s atonal music and other music with novel music style. However, too many musical elements are involved in the work and the diffusive style makes the work less pellucid and more difficult to enjoy, though there are attractive passages here and there.

By the way, the music sheet for violin (20 pages) is less voluminous compared with viola (29 pages) or cello (27 pages). This means that we had long rests during the performance and I had difficulty in recognizing where I was, especially because the place of accent in a bar is irregular and moves frequently. I found it extremely difficult to count rest bars without knowing the music well and to decide where to enter. Therefore, I had to be alert all through the music and felt exhausted after the performance.

Möller-sensei responding to the applause
Having said this, I want to underline that Maestro Möller overcame the weakness of the composition with his powerful and resolute performance. Though he comes from Hamburg, he is not such a giant as many Japanese people might imagine as a North German. However, his performance was really gigantic.

The orchestra players were all stimulated by his performance and the audience did not have chances to take naps! We were all impressed and enchanted by his music and thought "this is real German music!" The applause lasted long.

Maestro has been to Japan already about 10 times. He declared during the after-performance party that he was ready to come over to Japan again to perform with the Furtwängler Institute Philharmonic Orchestra. Our endless applause goes to Möller-sensei!

Receiving applause - It is usual that Japanese audience refrain from sitting the front seats!