YNSO 2022-23 season offers joy of music for 60th anniversary

The Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra

The Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The orchestra’s 2022-23 season, which starts on April 23, features a wide variety of programs ranging from classics to contemporary repertoire. An illustrious lineup of conductors and soloists will be performing with the YNSO, also known to fans as Yomikyo, a shortened version of its Japanese name.

Today’s special feature introduces some of the highlights of the coming season from the orchestra’s main subscription series: Subscription Concerts, Popular Series, Saturday Matinee Series, Sunday Matinee Series and Kawasaki Matinee Series. The two weekend matinee series both have the same lineup of works.

Today’s feature also includes an interview with the YNSO’s principal conductor, Sebastian Weigle.

■ Zemlinsky’s ‘Mermaid’ as starter

The YNSO’s Subscription Concerts series will kick off on May 24 with a concert conducted by Toshiyuki Kamioka, who is currently the chief conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic. The program includes Zemlinsky’s symphonic poem “Die Seejungfrau” (The Mermaid), a musical retelling of a colorful and romantic story. Kamioka is renowned for conducting such dramatic works. Also worthy of note, he will conduct Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” in the weekend matinee series on May 28 and 29.

Weigle will make his first appearance in the new season in June. He will conduct Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 among other pieces in the Popular Series concert on June 16 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 (the Nowak edition) and Rudi Stephan’s Music for Orchestra in the Subscription series on June 21. Stephan was a German composer of great promise who died young in World War I. The audience will be able to appreciate Stephan’s music, which is a fine example of late Romanticism.

In the weekend matinee series on June 25 and 26, Weigle will take on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. The soloist is Lola Descours, a young and promising French bassoonist who will perform with the Yomikyo for the first time. Weigle will also be joined by cellist Dai Miyata in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme in the Kawasaki Matinee Series on June 9. You can’t take your eyes off the conductor that month.

Alejo Perez is the YNSO’s conductor for July. He made a lasting impression with the audience in 2018 when he conducted Weber’s opera “Der Freischutz” with the YNSO and the Tokyo Nikikai Opera. This time he will conduct Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 “The Year of 1917” and Mendelssohn’s rarely performed Concerto for Violin and Piano in the Subscription series on July 22. The performance will feature two celebrated soloists: violinist Akiko Suwanai and pianist Evgeni Bozhanov from Bulgaria.

■ Valcuha’s Yomikyo debut

August will see the YNSO debut of Slovakian conductor Juraj Valcuha, who excels in both operas and symphonic concerts. He will conduct two rewarding programs, taking on Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in the Subscription series on Aug. 23 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 “Scottish” and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with Hisako Kawamura in the weekend matinee series on Aug. 27 and 28.

Weigle will dominate September as well. The programs for the month headline popular classics, such as Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem “Ein Heldenleben” at the Popular Series concert on Sept. 14 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite “Scheherazade” in the weekend matinee series on Sept. 24 and 25. But the main event of the month is the Sept. 20 Subscription series performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. In the first half of the concert, “The Revelation of St. John” by Daniel Schnyder will have its Japanese premiere. Schnyder is a Swiss composer in the same generation as Weigle. It will be a night of solemn music.

■ Toshi Ichiyanagi world premiere

Sylvain Cambreling, who built an era with the YNSO as the principal conductor from 2010 to 2019, will return to the podium in front of the orchestra for the first time in three years.

The Popular Series concert on Oct. 19 shows the daring and innovative qualities that are the essence of Cambreling’s programs. In addition to works by Bartok, Bizet and Saint-Saens, the conductor will take on contemporary pieces by Dalbavie and Ligeti. On Oct. 25, the Subscription series will feature Debussy’s “Jeux” and Varese’s “Arcana” as well as the world premiere of Toshi Ichiyanagi’s Double Concerto for Violin and Shamisen, which will be joined by violinist Tatsuki Narita and shamisen player Hidejiro Honjoh.

In the weekend matinee series on Oct. 29 and 30, Cambreling will offer the audience an opportunity to experience French music from the 19th and 20th centuries from a new perspective by combining Bizet’s “L’arlesienne” Suite 1 and 2 with Jolivet’s Trumpet Concerto with Selina Ott.

■ Star soloists coming

In November and December, two star violinists, one young and one experienced, will vie for prominence. Seiji Okamoto, the first prize winner of the ARD Music Competition in Munich last year, will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 “Turkish” under the baton of Tomas Netopil in the weekend matinee series on Nov. 26 and 27. In the Popular Series on Dec. 2, veteran Viktoria Mullova, known for always giving one-of-a-kind performances, will be the soloist for Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, also conducted by Netopil.

Moreover, Kyohei Sorita, who won second place in the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw last year, will make his appearance in the Subscription series on Dec. 12 to play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Note that he will perform the No. 2 concerto, not the more famous No. 1. On the podium will be Weigle, who will also conduct Taneyev’s Symphony No. 4 in the second half of the concert to show his love for Russian music.

Expectations are running high that talented Masato Suzuki, the YNSO’s associate conductor and creative partner, will surely provide a breath of fresh air to the regular year-end program of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral” in the weekend matinee series on Dec. 17 and 18 as well as at the Popular Series concert on Dec. 21.

■ Powerful programs in 2023

Principal Guest Conductor Kazuki Yamada will be reunited with the Yomikyo late in the season, in January 2023. He will conduct Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Ivo Pogorelich as the soloist in the weekend matinee series on Jan. 7 and 8 and Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Mandara Symphony and Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 “Tragische” at the Popular Series concert on Jan. 13 and the Kawasaki Matinee Series concert on Jan. 15. In the Subscription series on Jan. 19, he will take on Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie to wind up a delightful first month of the year.

February and March also provide plenty to talk about. Weigle will make his fourth appearance of the season at the Popular Series concert on Feb. 17, conducting Brahms’s Violin Concerto, with Mayumi Kanagawa as the soloist, and Schumann’s Symphony No. 2. In the Subscription series on Feb. 22, up-and-coming Russian conductor Anna Rakitina will make her YNSO debut. The assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra will conduct Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 “Winter Daydreams” in addition to the Japanese premiere of Violin Concerto by contemporary French composer Thierry Escaich. Virtuoso violinist Renaud Capucon is the soloist.

Suzuki will return to conduct a special program on March 9 in the Subscription series to wind up the 60th anniversary season. Suzuki, also a composer, has been commissioned by the YNSO to write a piece for the anniversary. He will conduct the world premiere of the new work and the Japanese premiere of contemporary German composer Jorg Widmann’s Viola Concerto with Antoine Tamestit.

The 2022-23 season program reflects the YNSO’s enterprising quality of aggressively taking on not only classical masterpieces but also 20th-century and contemporary works. No doubt, audiences will be able to appreciate the orchestra’s ever-evolving artistry, in addition to intimate sounds by its chamber force, the Yomikyo Ensemble.

■ Regional tour in 10 cities

As part of the events commemorating its 60th anniversary, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra will give special concerts in 10 cities across the country, with programs mainly of popular classics. At each concert, the orchestra will be joined by high-profile conductors and soloists.

Particularly notable is the May 11 concert in Naha. It will be the first time in 30 years for the YNSO to perform in Okinawa Prefecture. Popular pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii will play Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the orchestra conducted by Ryusuke Numajiri. The program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

Tsujii will be the soloist for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the YNSO concerts in Kitakyushu on Sept. 10 and Hiroshima on Sept. 11 under the baton of YNSO Principal Conductor Sebastian Weigle, who will conduct Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” in the second half of the concert.

Ken-ichiro Kobayashi will conduct a three-day tour in the Tohoku region, with concerts in Morioka on Oct. 8; Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Oct. 9; and Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 10. Hayato Sumino, who drew attention when he participated in the Chopin International Piano Competition last year, will be the soloist for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Kobayashi will also conduct Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 at the concerts.

Kazuki Yamada will conduct two concerts in the Hokuriku region in January 2023. The concerts in Toyama on Jan. 21 and in Fukui on Jan. 22 will feature Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with high school prodigy pianist Tomoya Nakase, who was born in 2006.

The YNSO will perform in Kofu and Matsuyama as well, a nice present for classical music fans in those cities.


To purchase tickets or apply for a subscription series, call (0570) 00-4390 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (in Japanese) or visit the online ticket service site for the orchestra (http://yomikyo.pia.jp). For information in English, visit the English-language page on the YNSO’s official website (https://yomikyo.or.jp/e/). Save on per-ticket prices with a subscription. Subscribers can also enjoy various benefits, such as a complementary CD.