Japanese composer Masao Ohki was born on 3 October 1901 in Iwata, and grew up in Shizuoka. His father, a teacher at a girls' high school, liked to play the Shakuhachi, and Ohki also played the instrument from his childhood, which was a considerable influence on his music.
He studied chemistry in Osaka and then worked as an engineer in Tokyo from 1921, continuing his musical studies in his spare time. He left his job and moved to mountainous Ueda in central Japan to teach at a girls' school, and it was here that he decided to devote his life to writing orchestral music. He returned to Tokyo, worked part-time and studied music with Giichi Ishikawa (who had studied in California).
Attracted to the music of Beethoven, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky, he began conducting his own music in the 1930s and won first prize in the Weingartner Competition in 1939 with Five Fairy Tales (1934) and Idea of the Night (1937), in which he attempted an orchestration of Shakuhachi music.
One of Ohki's major achievements is the Hiroshima Symphony completed in 1953, dedicated to the tragedy of the atomic bombing, and later renamed as his Symphony No 5. It was recorded on Naxos in 2006, coupled with his Japanese Rhapsody of 1938.
Masao Ohki died of cancer on 18 April 1971. His last work was his sixth symphony (Vietnam) of 1970, dedicated to the Vietnamese who fought against imperialist America.
A selection of M&V articles about Masao Ohki
CD Spotlight. Grim and Visceral - Masao Ohki's 'Hiroshima Symphony', reviewed by Howard Smith. 'A blistering 2005 performance ...'