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JAPAN

Eight seasons from Slovakia

by Chiho Iuchi

Staff Writer

Opening 2013 on a cultured note, the Slovak Chamber Orchestra (SCO) tours Japan from Jan. 5 through Jan. 18.

Founded by violinist and then Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster Bohdan Warchal (1930-2000) in 1960, SCO has developed into one of the most popular groups in Slovakia’s classical-music community, as well as the principal representatives in introducing that country’s brand of string music abroad.

While ensembles from other European countries tend to deliver sharp sounds, Japanese conductor Kazuhiko Ishii says, “The Slovakian sound is softer and like bronze” — referencing the metal’s warm color.

SCO has conducted tours of Japan before and left audiences praising its tasteful ensemble and accessible programs. Since 2001, violinist Ewald Danel has served as artistic director. Although originally focused on Baroque ensembles, Drahomir Stos, the Slovakian ambassador to Japan says, “(The orchestra) started to perform a wider range of music under Danel’s leadership.” Stos has been involved in promoting the SCO’s upcoming tour as it will coincide with the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Slovakia since its nationhood in 1993.

Among the highlights of the approaching tour is an interesting contrast made with the performance of two versions of “The Four Seasons” — one by Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) and the other by Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). The combined version, or “eight seasons” as it were, will be performed at four venues in Japan, while “spring” will represent both works at the other venues.

Another highlight will be a collaboration with Japanese tenor Ken Nishikiori, which will feature the joyful-sounding “O, Primavera” by Italian composer Pier Adolfo Tirindelli, and many other songs.

Slovak Chamber Orchestra will start their tour at Kobe Bunka Hall on Jan. 5 ([078] 351-3349); Sayaka Hall in Sayama, Osaka, on Jan. 6 ([072] 365-9590); Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo on Jan. 10 ([03] 5323-6799); Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall on Jan. 12 ([03] 5774-3040); Tochigi Prefectural Sogo Bunka Center in Utsunomiya on Jan. 13 ([028] 643-1010); Verte Foret in Nagaizumi, Shizuoka Pref., on Jan. 14 ([055] 989-0001); and Yumenity in Nogata, Fukuoka Pref., on Jan. 17 ([0949] 25-1007); and Fukuoka Symphony Hall on Jan. 18 ([092] 852-5507). Tickets cost between ¥3,000-¥7,000. For more information, visit www.japanarts.co.jp.