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Cello and sushi

Meeting Danjulo Ishizaka for a bite, by TESS CREBBIN


Considered to be one of the hottest new generation cellists in Germany, Danjulo Ishizaka's career is really taking off. Music critics write of him in superlative terms and he has been called anything from a genius to an emerging master cellist. His first CD, soon to be released, is with Sony Classics -- not a bad label for a first recording! A child prodigy from a musical family who already played for Boris Pergamenschikow at age eight, the German-Japanese musician (his mother is German, his father Japanese) is drawing interest in high places: this Christmas he will play for the German president in a nationally broadcast Christmas concert and he has also been called in as replacement for Alban Gerhardt in a concert series later this month in Cottbus, Germany. Awards and prizes he has won too many to mention them all, but suffice it to say that he was not only the 2002 winner of the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann in Berlin but also received the 2003 'Prix Artist of the Year'. Not surprisingly, Ishizaka's concert activities have taken him around the world, from the USA to Russia, to Spain, Italy or Japan.

Lucky enough to be sponsored by the Nippon foundation, he plays a fine instrument provided by the same: the 1696 Stradivarius Cello 'Lord Aylesford', so called because it has been owned by the well-known amateur player Lord Aylesford of England who in turn acquired the cello in the early 1780s from the famous Italian violinist Felice De Giardini. It remained in the Aylesford Family for almost one hundred years. Other interesting stages in the life of the cello were its 1948 encounter with Gregor Piatigorsky or when -- during 1950-65 -- Janos Starker played this cello in many of his concerts and also made some 35 recordings with it. The other instrument that the young cellist currently uses is also provided on loan, through Tania Pergamenschikow, and he feels that it is a great honor to play it: it is the copy, made by Wolfgang Schnabel and played by Boris Pergamenschikow, of Pergamenschikow's Montagnana Cello.

Surrounded by such fine celli, life must be good for Danjulo whom we encountered during his recent trip to Munich where he came to meet with some high profile music personalities and to grab a bite of sushi with Music & Vision.

Sushi and celli - Danjulo Ishizaka in a Munich restaurant. Photo © 2004 Tess Crebbin
Sushi and celli - Danjulo Ishizaka in a Munich restaurant. Photo © 2004 Tess Crebbin

Tess Crebbin: You obviously must have a real taste for sushi, being half Japanese and half German ...

Danjulo Ishizaka: Yes, I sure like it. Although I grew up in Bonn and you can say that I am pretty much German, I have some of the Japanese culture through my father. We did not speak Japanese at home but that is something I studied by myself later. Still, I got some idea of how the Japanese heart beats, so I feel an affinity with the country and its culture.

TC: Obviously. You are also married to a Japanese musician.

DI: Yes. I met my wife at the Hans Eisler Music Academy in Berlin when I was studying there with Pergamenschikow, and she was studying clarinet.

TC: Has your approach to music been influenced by your Japanese heritage? The Japanese way is very disciplined, isn't it?

DI: I think that the great Japanese musicians are pretty much European in their approach. There are so many students in Japan just practicing all day with their instruments, but what is as important is to get to know the background of the times the composers lived in, and the background of the works themselves. You can do so by reading books and informing yourself, which is an aspect that should not be overlooked. In the end, playing music is like drama. It's comparable to theatre or opera in a way. You must really think about what story you are telling. If you fail to do so, then it simply won't work. This is why sometimes you get people who just practice all day until they are technically perfect but they never get anywhere.

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Copyright © 6 December 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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