More than 20 years ago, pianist Kyoko Edo, composer Maki Ishii and musicologist Takashi Funayama put their heads together in a bar in Tokyo. While sipping their drinks, the three agreed that Tokyo needed a music festival along the lines of those held in Paris and Berlin each year. That was the beginning of Tokyo Summer Festival, an annual music event which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“The three of us knew we were capable of producing the event and coming up with a program, but we lacked resources and an administrative base,” Funayama recalled.

Fortunately for them, in its early stages, Edo’s father, Hideo Edo, chairman of Mitsui Fudosan Co., extended a helping hand. The Asahi Shimbun has also been supporting the festival from the outset, serving as the promoter of the festival along with The Arion-Edo Foundation.

Tokyo Summer Festival has gained popularity as an event whose concerts feature not only Western classical but also world music. “Tokyo is such a huge city, and it’s a bit of a hodgepodge,” Edo says. “It absorbs a variety of cultural activities but few of them actually take root.”

To ensure a bright future for the festival Funayama is calling on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to support the event substantially so as to make it something that belongs to Tokyo; so far it receives no financial support from the city. “I am confident that the festival has a sound programming vision and has succeeded in offering a variety of music,” he said. “My hope is that the event will become a spiritual oasis for Tokyoites.”

This year’s festival will pay special attention to music from Islamic countries. Highlights of the program include Iranian classical music, popular rai from Algeria and Pakistan’s distinctive qawwali song cycles.

This year there will also be a commemoration of one of the three festival founders, composer Ishii, who died of thyroid cancer in April last year at the age of 66. Ishii was chiefly known for attempting to fuse Western and Eastern music. An event called “In the Memory of Maki Ishii,” will be held Aug. 4 from 7 p.m. at Kioi Hall, featuring a movie, a speech, a discussion and performances of music composed by him.

Festival highlights

The highlights of this year’s Tokyo Summer Festival are:

* Mario Brunello & Orchestra d’Archi Italiana: July 2, 7 p.m., Suntory Hall.

Brunello is the cellist who won the eighth International Tchaikovsky competition held in Moscow in 1986.

* Giovanni Sollima Solo Performance — “Joseph Beuys Song”: July 5, 7 p.m., Tsuda Hall.

Sollima is a composer and cellist from Sicily who is highly praised by Philip Glass. He will be joined by Brunello in a performance combining cello with electronics.

* Hossein Alizadeh — Master of Iranian Classical Music “Raz-e-no (Novel Mystery)”: July 8, 7 p.m., Hama Rikyu Hall.

Alizadeh is a composer known for highly innovative creations rooted in ancient cultural traditions.

* Cheikha Rimitti — The Mother of Algerian Rai: July 10, 6 p.m., Sogetsu Hall.

Cheikha Rimitti, one of the foremost rai chanteuses in her country, will be visiting Japan for the first time.

* Hibiki Tamura Piano Recital – Liszt and Prokoviev sonatas: July 21, 7 p.m., Kioi Hall.

Tamura is a 17-year-old pianist who won the Arion Award, established in 1983, in 2003.

* Soul of the Sea — Le Tarantelle: 2 p.m., July 22, Kioi Hall.

The tarantelle originated in Southern Italy as a dance of healing.

* Soul of Qawwali — The Urs Devotional Music of Sufism from Pakistan: July 24 at 5 p.m.; July 25 at 2 p.m., Setagaya Public Theater.

Urs is a ritual for celebrating the passing of a Sufi saint.

* Gergiev Conducts Stravinsky: July 26, 7 p.m., Suntory Hall.

Valery Gergiev, artistic director of Mariinsky Theater/Kirov Opera in St. Petersburg, conducts the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

For more information, see www.arion-edo.org

For tickets, see www.arion-edo.org/ticket/ or call (03) 5465-1233 or 0570-02-9999.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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