On August 31 I went to the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, which is held every year in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, to listen to a performance, from 4 p.m. on that day, of Hector Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist conducted by Seiji Ozawa.
At the Saito Kinen Festival in 2009, I watched Ozawa-san conduct a rousing performance of Maurice Ravel’s Sheherazade and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. Uplifted by the experience, afterward I had a meal and a good chat with Royal Audio President Akira Maruyama at a traditional warehouse-style sushi restaurant. When we had finished, we went downstairs, and who did we bump into but Nobuyuki Idei, Mr.Ito, and their wives in a group of about 10 people out for a meal together. I owed a lot to both Idei-san and Ito-san and hadn’t seen either of them for a long time.
And there in the group was the maestro himself, Seiji Ozawa! Still buzzing with excitement after the concert, I felt as if I were in a world of dreams. Idei-san suggested a photo, and we took a snap of me, Maruyama-san, and Ito-san with Ozawa-san in the middle. I then shook hands with Ozawa-san. I will treasure that photo and the warm touch of his handshake for the rest of my life. I felt full of gratitude to Idei-san, Ito-san, and the others in the group.
In 2010 I was watching the morning news on NHK, and there was Ozawa-san confessing that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He announced that he would stop work for half a year so as to concentrate on treatment. I just hoped that he would make a full recovery and once again let people around the world hear marvelous music. And at the same time, I prayed for Ozawa-san’s speedy comeback because the Saito Kinen Festival would not be the same without him.
I went to the Saito Kinen Festival in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. They were fine performances, but nevertheless Ozawa-san’s absence left a big hole in my heart. I was eagerly awaiting his full recovery and comeback. And at long last, toward the end of this year’s summer, Ozawa-san returned to conduct the Fantastic Symphony, a performance lasting for nearly an hour. I was there. The excitement and emotion deeply permeated my soul and made me feel strong and forward-looking. It was an uplifting experience, a real “sunrise.”
Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist is the story of an artist gifted with rich imagination who plunges into the depths of despair due to hopeless love. It consists of five movements: “Reveries-Passions,” “A Ball,” “Scene in the Fields,” “March to the Scaffold,” and “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Under Ozawa-san’s baton, each movement was portrayed delicately, sweetly, and powerfully. It was truly magnificent, as if there were gods residing in every move of the maestro’s body, right up to his fingertips. I listened with all my heart and soul.
Ozawa-san has recovered from his serious illness. This year has been a commemorative one for the Saito Kinen Festival, marking 40 years since the death of the great educator Hideo Saito and the thirtieth anniversary of the Saito Kinen Orchestra. From 2015 the event will be renamed the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival. “I want to improve the festival’s content more so that people can hear the very best music,” said Ozawa-san. I can’t wait!