By Michinobu Yanagisawa / Japan News Staff Writer People involved in Denmark-Japan ties deepened their understanding of the close relationship through music at a piano concert at the official residence of the Danish ambassador to Japan in Tokyo on Thursday night, in celebration of this year’s 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Dozens of Japanese guests, including former Japanese ambassadors to Denmark, were invited to the concert hosted by Danish Ambassador Freddy Svane and his wife Lise Frederiksen. The piano was played by London-based pianist Motoki Hirai, who has been globally promoting Japanese picture books by composing and performing music based on their images since his premiere of the project at the Japan Culture Festival in Denmark in 2007.
Hirai played about 10 pieces — both Danish and Japanese — at the concert. A work by German-born Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), Sonatine No. 1 in C, Op. 20-1, received a special reaction. As soon as the pianist began to play, it looked as if many of the guests began to move joyfully, clearly recognizing its relatively simple but elegant melody. The piece is widely known in Japan because it is included in the Sonatina Album that most piano learners use in the country.
A folk song called “Skomagerpolka” — meaning “Shoemaker polka” — was another Danish piece whose title was not necessarily familiar to the audience. Known as “Ito Maki no Uta” (Song of the bobbin) in Japanese and “Wind the Bobbin Up” in English, the children’s classic sparked so much excitement in the audience that they danced together and sang in both Japanese and Danish.
This year has seen a number of exchanges and events in Denmark and Japan on both government and private levels, including Crown Prince Naruhito’s visit to Denmark in June and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit in July.