Sony CSL Piano Academy
2nd Year Student Recital

The Music Excellence Project at Sony Computer Science Laboratories (Sony CSL) aims to nurture outstanding junior pianists by combining arts education and physical education. On November 30 in 2022, a concert was held at Oji Hall featuring graduates from the Piano Academy’s second year, along with musical director Prof. Dina Yoffe and her assistant teachers. Although Prof. Yoffe was unable to perform at the recital after the completion of the first year of the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time, a concert with her on the same stage was finally realized.

Shinichi Furuya, Senior Researcher at Sony CSL, who took the microphone to kick off the event, remarked, “This project places great importance on handing down culture, and today is a rare opportunity for three generations of pianists to come together. Since posture and touch during performances will also be measured today, and the measurements will be utilized for the future of the students, this recital itself is a part of our educational process. I love every artist who will be performing. Please enjoy the concert," he finished, opening the concert with a show of respect for the junior pianists.

Part I featured performances by the second-year students of the Piano Academy. These young pianists in their teens took the stage and performed repertoire by composers from a wide range of periods and countries, from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, to Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Scriabin, Prokofiev, and more.

First up was Kantaro Narita, who entered the stage with a smile on his face and played Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 50 in D major, Hob.XVI:37, Op.30-3 with a crisp and evocative touch to deliver a richly expressive, smooth-toned performance of Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives" No. 7. The 6th grader, who was the youngest of the group, opened the concert with an impressive performance.
Next, Riona Yamauchi performed the 1st movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastorale." She gave the audience natural music infused with warmth and gentle undulations.

Yuki Kimoto played the 2nd and 3rd movements of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 26 "The Farewell." She began as if deeply ensconced in the music and set her performance in motion with a majestic touch.
Rin Suzuki performed Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, and used a wide variety of timbres ranging from gentle to powerful, freely giving shape to Scriabin's world.
Nanase Koyama brought a brisk, energetic sound to the 1st and 3rd movements of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 9, K. 311, infusing a song-like quality into Mozart's lively music with her own breathing.

After the intermission, Tomoya Otaki performed Liszt's Waltz on Themes of Gounod's "Faust." From the outset, he grabbed the audience's ears with a brilliant sound, recreating various scenes and drama from the opera.
Yurina Yamashita performed Liszt's Transcendental Études No. 5 (Mazeppa) and No. 12 (Chasse-neige). These two pieces require a high level of technique, and she played them with an emphasis on flow, immersing herself in her musical world.
The last performer, Yuto Yamazaki, played Chopin's Polonaise No. 6 "Heroic." He freely combined smoothness and lightness of touch to create an impressive, dramatic performance to close out the students' part of the program.
Each of the eight students who performed at the concert made the most of their learning under guidance at the Academy that helped them develop their individuality, to deliver their own uniquely expressive music.

Part 2, a joint performance by Prof. Dina Yoffe and her assistant teachers, began after the second intermission, Prof. Yoffe and Hiroko Matsushita played a one piano, four-hands rendition of the 1st movement of Haydn's Divertimento in F major, "The Master and The Scholar." The performance, in which they played off each other in a delightful dialogue, was a model of spontaneous musical expression created by listening to and reacting to each other's sound. Prof. Yoffe's expressiveness was particularly impressive, never playing the same phrase the same way twice.
Next, Prof. Yoffe and Yui Yoshioka performed Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre" on two pianos. The two pianists took turns striking mysterious tones to deliver a dynamic performance that seemed to present a dazzling variety of episodes.
The final piece on the program was Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 2. For this two-piano performance, Prof. Yoffe stayed on 2nd Piano while her three assistant teachers each alternated playing duo with her.
Yuhi Ozaki joined Prof. Yoffe to perform the dramatic and grand scaled "Introduction" and "Valse," which featured a comingling of the two pianists' gorgeous tones. This was followed by "Romance" with Takuya Tainaka, whose sparkling tone echoed in the sweet music, and "Tarantelle" with Masaru Yoshitake, which featured occasionally dazzling exhibitions from both pianists. The assistant teachers responded to Prof. Yoffe's at times powerful, at times flexible sound with a natural, effortless touch and a variety of timbres to create the musical world that each movement requires.

After the concert, Prof. Yoffe remarked, "I have said enough with the music, so right now it's very difficult to add anything more. But I am very happy to be a part of this project, because I think it's very important for all musicians to learn how to put together the musical, physical, and psychological elements. I believe that today you have been able to see the culmination of the last two years."

This concert was an excellent opportunity for the students to experience the feeling of playing in front of a large audience and the acoustics of a concert hall—two things one must undergo to become a professional pianist.
They also were able to see how Prof. Yoffe and the assistant teachers, who are usually giving them advice, actually listen to their own sounds and those of their fellow performers on the same stage, how they create the music on the spot, and how they control their touch amid the resonance of a concert hall. All in all, it must have been a special experience for them.

(Article : Haruka Kosaka, Photo : Ayumi Kakamu)