Absolutely on music conv.., p.24
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       Absolutely on Music: Conversations With Seiji Ozawa, p.24

           Haruki Murakami
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  OZAWA: It really is something wonderful. It’s the power these young people have. I do this every year, but I still find it hard to believe the speed with which they improve during those last three days. It’s awe-inspiring. You have to see it to believe it.

  MURAKAMI: Yes, it has been a rare opportunity for me. I’m a writer, a lone craftsman in the true sense, so it was very touching for me to witness a communal work of art in the making. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  Afterword by Seiji Ozawa

  I have lots of friends who love music, but Haruki takes it way beyond the bounds of sanity. Jazz, classics: he doesn’t just love music, he knows music. Tiny details, old stuff, musicians—it’s amazing. He goes to concerts, and to live jazz performances, and he listens to records at home. It really is amazing.


  My daughter, Seira, the only member of the family who can write, is great friends with Haruki’s wife, Yoko, and that’s how I got to know Haruki.

  Haruki came to observe my Seiji Ozawa Music Academy, a project very dear to me, that we hold every year in Kyoto. He and I went out to enjoy the Kyoto night life under the fascinated gazes of my fellow teachers and the students. This was a first for both of us.

  We had our first conversation in a little bar that the two of us went to for the first time in Ponto-cho, Kyoto’s entertainment district. We talked about what he had seen at the academy, and I’m sure we talked about music in general, too.


  Back home in Tokyo, I told Seira about the evening I had spent with Haruki. She said, “If you found it so interesting to talk about music with him, you two ought to get together and record your conversations,” but I didn’t give it much thought at the time. After my major surgery for esophageal cancer, though, when I had nothing but time on my hands, we were invited as a family to visit the Murakami home in Kanagawa. While the others were gabbing in the kitchen, Haruki and I went into another room and listened to the records that Haruki had set out.

  They were recordings by Glenn Gould and Mitsuko Uchida. Memories of Glenn Gould came flooding back to me, though fifty years had passed in between.


  Until my surgery, I was too busy making music every day to think about the past, but once I started remembering, I couldn’t stop, and the memories came back with a nostalgic surge. This was a new experience for me. Not all things connected with major surgery are bad. Thanks to Haruki, I was able to recall Maestro Karajan, Lenny, Carnegie Hall, the Manhattan Center, one after another, and I spent the next three or four days steeped in those memories.


  I was scheduled to conduct the Saito Kinen Orchestra accompanying Mitsuko Uchida in the Beethoven Third Piano Concerto in New York, but I aggravated a back problem, and so, with great regret, I ceded the baton to Tatsuya Shimono. It still rankles me terribly. We’ll do it next time, Mitsuko!


  If there’s anything good about a major illness, it’s that it gives you more time than you know what to do with. Thank you, Seira! You made it possible for me to meet Haruki.

  Thank you, Haruki! You brought out so many memories for me. And I’m not sure how you did it, but you really got me talking. Thank you, Yoko, for always putting out those nutritious snacks!


  Haruki and Yoko, thank you both for coming all the way to Switzerland. I had always felt that no one could really grasp the beauty of that academy without seeing it in person.


  I’m only sorry, Haruki, that you weren’t able to observe the music-making at Okushiga this year. We’ll do it next year for sure.

  Let’s talk about any differences you find between the young musicians of Europe and the East.

  For a selection of the music discussed by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa, visit harukimurakami.com


  Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul.

  Seiji Ozawa served as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty-nine years, and was music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia Festival, and Wiener Staatsoper. With Kazuyoshi Akiyama, he formed the Saito Kinen Orchestra and is the director of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival. Ozawa has been deeply involved in musical education through his work with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga, the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, and as founder of the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy Opera Project, organizations which provide opportunities to outstanding students in Asia and Europe. Among his many honors, Ozawa has been awarded France’s Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, the Japanese Order of Culture, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Grammy for Best Opera Recording.

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  Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music: Conversations With Seiji Ozawa

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