Performance Monday, March 21, 2011 | 8 PM

NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
In 1944, as Soviet Russia defended itself from Nazi invasion, Prokofiev wrote his Fifth Symphony as “a hymn to free and happy Man … his pure and noble spirit.” A few years later, an elderly Strauss composed his Four Last Songs, performed here by the legendary Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Hear both of these pieces, along with music by Takemitsu that pays homage to Debussy.


  • Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Soprano
  • NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo
    André Previn, Principal Guest Conductor


  • R. STRAUSS Four Last Songs
  • PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5


  • Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

    Kiri Te Kanawa gained legendary status almost overnight after her sensational debut as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1971. At the time of her operatic debut she was already an experienced concert and recording artist, and equally at home in front of the cameras as on stage. Continuing to develop as a recitalist, she is now a much sought-after singer in a wide variety of musical contexts.

    Ms. Te Kanawa is a familiar figure in the world's leading opera houses: Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra de Paris, Sydney Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, and San Francisco Opera. Her lyric soprano heroines include the three leading roles by Richard Strauss (the title role in Arabella, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and the Countess in Capriccio); Mozart's Così fan tutte (Fiordiligi), Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira), Die Zauberflöte (Pamina), and Countess Almaviva; Verdi's La traviata (Violetta), Simon Boccanegra (Amelia Boccanegra), and Otello (Desdemona); the title roles in Puccini's Tosca and Manon Lescaut, in addition to Mimi in La bohème; Rosaline in Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus; Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin; the title character in Bizet's Carmen; and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust.

    On the concert stage, her natural serenity and vocal beauty have joined with the world's major orchestral ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, and Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, and Sir Georg Solti. She has appeared at venues both vast and specialized, including Glyndebourne, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Arena di Verona, Hollywood Bowl, the festivals of Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg, and the desert outback of Australia.

    Named a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982, Kiri Te Kanawa has been conferred with honorary degrees from the universities in Cambridge, Oxford, Dundee, Durham, Nottingham, Sunderland, Warwick, Auckland, Waikato, and Chicago. She is also an honorary fellow of Somerville College; Oxford; and Wolfson College, Cambridge; and was invested with the Order of Australia in 1990 and the Order of New Zealand in 1995.
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  • NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo

    The NHK Symphony Orchestra is one of Japan's most significant symphony orchestras and has played a fundamental role in Japan's classical music history. Originally founded as the New Symphony Orchestra, it became the country's first professional orchestra in 1926. Upon receiving sponsorship from the Japanese public broadcasting organization, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), in 1951, it took its current name. During this period, Joseph Rosenstock began his post as principal guest conductor, and was particularly influential in establishing the NHK Symphony Orchestra's reputation as Japan's leading orchestral ensemble. The first subscription concert was held in 1927 to critical acclaim; due to its success, the concert series was even able to continue throughout World War II. Since then, the NHK Symphony Orchestra has hosted some the world's most eminent conductors, including Herbert von Karajan, Ernest Ansermet, Joseph Keilberth, and Lovro von Matačić, as well as numerous popular soloists of the time.

    Today, the NHK Symphony Orchestra annually presents approximately 120 concerts nationally, including 54 subscription concerts performed at NHK Hall and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. In 1960, the orchestra began touring overseas. Winning widespread acclaim, concert recordings were later produced by major record labels and sold around the world. More recently, the orchestra debuted its Music Tomorrow series, featuring repertoire written in collaboration with today's celebrated composers. Concerts are aired throughout Japan on the NHK Television Network and FM Radio, as well as in Europe, the US, and Asia.

    In 2003, the orchestra established the NHK Symphony Orchestra Academy, designed to foster musical talent. The orchestra regularly hosts a variety of musical events at elementary and junior high schools throughout Japan in an effort to share the joy of music with the next generation of budding musicians. Moreover, the NHK Symphony Orchestra is actively involved in serving the community by bringing music to hospitals, senior citizen centers, and other institutions. Through programs like these, the NHK Symphony Orchestra aims to not only help advance Japanese classical music as a whole, but to also bring the gift of music to the world.

    André Previn

    Conductor, composer, and pianist André Previn has received a number of awards and honors for his outstanding musical accomplishments, including both the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, and the Glenn Gould Prize. He has earned lifetime achievement awards from the Kennedy Center, London Symphony Orchestra, and Gramophone; in 2010 was one of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

    A regular guest with the world's major orchestras, both in concert and on recordings, Mr. Previn frequently works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Vienna Philharmonic. In addition, he has held chief artistic posts with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. In 2009, Mr. Previn was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

    As a pianist, Mr. Previn enjoys recording and performing song recitals, chamber music, and jazz. He has given recitals with Renée Fleming at Lincoln Center and with Barbara Bonney at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He regularly gives chamber music concerts with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and cellist Lynn Harrell, as well as with members of the Boston Symphony and London Symphony orchestras, and the Vienna Philharmonic.

    Mr. Previn has enjoyed a number of successes as a composer. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. Recent highlights include the premiere of his Double Concerto for Ms. Mutter and bassist Roman Patkoló, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2007. His Harp Concerto, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony, was premiered in 2008; Owls was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2008; his second opera, Brief Encounter, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, premiered in 2009; and his Double Concerto for Violin and Viola, received its premiere in 2009.

    In 2011, Mr. Previn returns to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican and tour North American cities with the NHK Symphony Orchestra. His opera Brief Encounter will be released by Deutsche Grammophon this spring.

    André Previn records for Deutsche Grammophon. His music is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. and Chester Music Ltd.
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JapanNYC Lead Sponsors are Epson Corporation; Mizuho Securities USA Inc.; Nomura Holding America Inc. and Nomura America Foundation; Kotaro ONO, The Chairman of The ONO Group; ROHM Co., Ltd. and Rohm Music Foundation; Sony Corporation; and Yoko Nagae Ceschina.

Supporting Sponsors are Deloitte LLP; Mitsubishi International Corporation; Suntory Holdings Limited and Suntory Hall; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited; Toshiba Corporation; and Toyota.

With additional funding from Aladdin Capital Holdings LLC; Asian Cultural Council; The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.; GWFF USA Inc.; ITOCHU International Inc.; J.C.C. Fund of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York; Kawasaki Good Times Foundation; The NY Mets Foundation; Nihon Unisys, Ltd.; Nippon Express Foundation, Inc.; Nippon Life Insurance Company; Hiroko Onoyama and Ken Sugawara; Seiko Instruments Inc.; Subaru of America, Inc.; and Sumitomo Corporation of America Foundation.

With special thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan; the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan; Japan Tourism Agency; Japan National Tourism Organization; the Japan Foundation; and the Consulate-General of Japan in New York.


Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 (I. Andante)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle
EMI Classics

At a Glance

This diverse 20th-century program includes an early work by an important innovator and pieces from the 1940s by two mature masters at the height of their powers. Three nationalities and traditions are present here: the currently popular Asian-Western crossover aesthetic, which Takemitsu largely inaugurated in the 1960s; the German Romantic tradition, which Strauss represented in its final incarnation; and the Russian school, represented by one of the most popular modern symphonies in the repertoire. All three pieces have a World War II legacy. Takemitsu first heard Western classical music on the radio (in secret) after being conscripted into the Japanese military in 1944—the same year Prokofiev wrote his Fifth Symphony to celebrate victory over the Nazis. Strauss wrote his final songs in exile during the denazification era.At
Program Notes
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Sponsored in part by Suntory Holdings Limited and Suntory Hall
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Sponsored in part by Toshiba Corporation

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