Nodame Cantabile was a popular manga, live action drama and anime which sparked an interest in classical music in Japan. The manga ended its run October 2009. The live action drama is scheduled to end in 2010. About a year after the live action drama aired in 2006, a piano concert was held at Santa Clara University featuring selections from the series. The concert sold out about a month before the scheduled performance. The concert must have been popular since there was a second concert the following year and a third concert this year. Fortunately for this writer, there were still tickets available at the door on the day of the concert. This year the concert was held on Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm.
The program formally consisted of 9 musical works and lasted approximately 2 hours. In a way the program mirrored the live action drama with the first musical work being Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. This was also the opening theme for the television drama. The last formal work of the concert was Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which was also the end theme of the television drama.
A program guide accompanied the concert explaining the history behind each piece. The program guide was written in English and Japanese. It appeared that a good number of people in the audience were Japanese. This is not to say that only Japanese speakers would be interested in the series. It is too bad this television drama has apparently not been promoted in the United States.
The second work performed was Montagues and the Capulets from Romeo and Juliet Op. 64. The composer originally conceived on this story having a happy ending since the dead, to his way of thinking, could not dance. He later changed his mind and changed the composition accordingly. It is interesting to see how this piece was used in the drama as background music for the maestro Stressman as he was scouting for prospective students for his new orchestra. This writer did not realize the piece was meant as a dance for the dead. The sound of the piece was sort of like a dark somber Star Wars theme when Darth Vader makes his entrance. One wonders if George Lucas borrowed from this work.
Next was Symphony No.3 Op.90, by Brahms. The program guide mentioned that this work was written about the time when Brahms fell in love with a young singer and that affected his work. The tone of this work has a sad feel to it. Part of this piece was used when the maestro Stressman, was recaptured by his manage sent on a trip back home. Stressman is sad about being led away and the music reflects the mood perfectly.
After the Brahms symphony was a Russian dance from Stravinsky’s Petrushka. The drama had a snippet of the work as a cell phone tune. That cell phone tune made its way into the main character’s recital, when she lost concentration.
The last work performed before the intermission was the Oboe Concerto in C Major K.314 by Mozart. This performance involved two pianos and one oboe. Later someone informed this writer that this is one of the more difficult pieces to play because of the fingering. The oboist looked a little exhausted after finishing the piece, just like the character in the television drama. This work has a nice light feel to it. While it may have been hard on the oboist, it was nice on the ears for the listeners. In the drama the listeners were all entranced by the sound.
A short intermission followed and afterwards the concert began again.
The sixth work performed was Prelude Op.28 by Chopin. The program guide mentioned that Chopin’s prelude was inspired by Bach’s Well tempered clavier and that one of the preludes, the funeral march, was the inspiration for the Barry Manilow song Could it be magic. The Barry Manilow song is not the greatest. But this writer does remember the piano opening to the song. He did not realize it was part of a Chopin piece until this concert. Unfortunately this writer could not recollect which scene from Nodame Cantabile went with this work.
The seventh work was Etude Op.10 in E Major by Chopin. In the anime this piece is used as sort of reminiscing of the past. The program guide mentioned that this work is an expression of Chopin’s love for Romantic Opera and his home country of Poland, which by this time had ceased to exist as an independent nation. In French the title of the work meant sadness.
The eighth work Alborada del gracioso by Ravel. In English this work is known as Aubade of the Jester. Since Alborada means morning serenade perhaps it could be translated as morning serenade of the Jester. Though this writer is not really into avant-garde material, this work is an exception. This piece was used as an introductory work in the Nodame Cantabile special in Europe and towards the end of the special. The end piece included a reminiscing by one of the characters named Chiaki. While Ravel was technically French, he was ethnically a Basque. The Basque people live in a territory which covers both Spain and France. Perhaps that is why there seems to be a Spanish influence in Ravel’s works. This work also incorporates the Spanish musical piece Malagena.
As stated before, the final work on the schedule was Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin. This was performed in episode 5 of the first series. Also parts of it were performed in other scenes as background music. Most memorable was where Nodame looks both ways and with a mischievous look lunges forward to plant a kiss on the apparently sleeping Chiaki. She succeeds in her mission and the music changes to another work. She says hooray in her own special code and runs off. She does not realize that Chiaki allowed her to kiss him as his way of saying thanks.
After the formal program, the artists performed some extra works before ending the program.
The concert was very well done. There were no introductory remarks by a moderator. The musicians simply performed and the concert flowed smoothly. Maybe an emcee is not necessary in order to hold a concert. The program guide was most helpful in providing an explanation of each musical works. This writer experienced a certain sense of gratification, when he could connect the music with the scenes from the television drama.