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La Folle Journee au Japon 2008

World's most-attended classical-music festival to showcase Schubert masterpieces

by Chiho Iuchi

Musical zing is coming to Tokyo International Forum and the city’s Marunouchi district next week when the La Folle Journee (Days of Enthusiasm) festival presents its fourth annual classical-music spectacular, here titled La Folle Journee au Japon.

LFJ originated in Nantes in northwest France in 1995, since when artistic director Rene Martin has continued pursuing his vision of the true democratization of classical music — and delighting millions around the world in the process — by bringing them first-class performances at surprisingly low prices.

The LFJ concept has been re-created in Lisbon since 2000, in Bilbao, Spain, since 2002, in Tokyo since 2005, and in Rio de Janeiro starting last year.

Now, the festival in Tokyo has become the largest of its kind in the world, with astonishing total audiences numbering 320,000 in 2005, 700,000 in 2006 and 1,060,000 last year.

This year, some 400 concerts and related programs will take place in TIF’s halls from May 2 to 6, and in the surrounding Marunouchi area from April 29 to May 6.

Each performance is set to last about 45 minutes. The shorter concerts mean that beginners aren’t overwhelmed by lengthy performances, while offering classical-music fans an opportunity to enjoy a wider sampling. The price per concert varies between ¥1,500 and ¥3,000.

Martin has assembled 1,700 first-class artists capable of conveying “true fascination” in the music. The LFJ in Tokyo features Asian orchestras, such as the Philharmonia Taiwan and the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra, along with Japanese talents including violinist Sayaka Shoji, pianist Yu Kosuge and guitarist Daisuke Suzuki. Featured European artists include German veteran conductor/pianist Christian Zacharias, the emerging French pianist Frank Braley and young Serbian violinist Nemanja Radulovic, who performed in Nantes in January.

The theme of the 2008 LFJ in Tokyo is the same as the Nantes festival: Schubert and Vienna.

Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) created numerous works that inspired many European composers in the 19th century, although his genius never brought him great success in his lifetime. He hopped around, mostly supported by friends willing to back his compositions, holding private music parties called “Schubertiade.” Throughout his short, 31-year life in Vienna, Schubert composed about 700 lieds (songs), such as “Ave Maria” and “The Trout,” as well as numbers for piano pieces, chamber music, Masses and symphonies — many of which were found after his death.

LFJ visitors will have a chance to enjoy all of Schubert’s symphonies, including the most famous, his “Unfinished” and “Great,” as well as the rarely performed symphonies Nos. 1 to 6. Also recommended are Schubert’s Masses — Nos. 4 to No. 6 — sung by the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne conducted by Michel Corboz, and the Cappella Amsterdam conducted by Daniel Reuss, which offer the essence of European classical music. Meanwhile, the Renegades Steel Band Orchestra from Trinidad & Tobago will present an exciting, Caribbean-style rendition of Schubert’s “Erlking.”

Visitors with tickets will have access to various additional programs, including free concerts, music lessons given by top artists, films about Schubert and projects for children.

Tokyo International Forum is a one-minute walk from Yurakucho Station, and a five-minute walk from Tokyo Station. For more details, call (03) 5221-9100 or visit www.t-i-forum.co.jp/lfj