Ikuyo Nakamichi began her piano studies under Mitsuko Kinpara. While a junior high school student, she received instruction from Phyllis Rappaport in the state of Michigan, U.S.A. After graduating from Toho Gakuen High School, she entered Toho Gakuen School of Music, where she studied under Kazuhiko Nakajima. In her freshman year, Nakamichi attracted a great deal of attention when she won the first prize and the Masuzawa Prize at the 51st Annual Japan Music Competition. She went on to study under Prof. Klaus Schilde at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich on a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
While studying in Munich, Nakamichi took the top prizes at the Geneva International Music Competition and the Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin, and fifth prize at the Concours Musical International Reine Elisabeth de Belgique. She subsequently began her performing activity in Europe and Japan, and recognition of her achievements led to her being awarded the Muramatsu Prize in Japan in 1988 and the Mobile Music Prize in 1993.
With a broad repertory ranging from Classical to Romantic, Nakamichi has performed as a soloist with Japan’s leading orchestras as well as many European and American orchestras, including the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste; the London Mozart Players under Günter Pichler; the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk, and the Philharmonia Orchestra, all under Lorin Maazel; the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra under Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi; the English Chamber Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Canada, both under Pinchas Zukerman; the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Heinrich Schiff; and the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos--all to high critical acclaim for her musicality. Among the other conductors with whom she has performed are Nello Santi, Claus Peter Flore, Kazimierz Kord and Paavo Järvi.
Nakamichi performed as a soloist on the European tour of the (then) Japan Shinsei Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. tour of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990; and on the European tour of the Japan Philharmonic in 1991. On these tours she received high praise from local newspaper reviewers, who said: “The harmony between her outstanding technique and graceful, poetic sensibility was highly impressive,” and “Her clear and bold grasp of the music were magnificent throughout.”
In 1999, Nakamichi gave her debut recital performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 2001 she made her concerto debuts in St. Petersburg and at the Berlin Philharmonie. In 2005 she performed to high acclaim in the “Wedding celebration concert” presented by the English Chamber Orchestra at Windsor Castle, attended by Crown Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
In the chamber music field, Nakamichi collaborates with such renowned ensembles as the Hagen String Quartet, the Berlin Brandis String Quartet, the Cherubini String Quartet, the Shostakovich String Quartet and the Berlin Philharmonic Octet. Her duo performances with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and violinist Josef Suk, both world-renowned artists, have won great critical acclaim, and she has earned the profound trust of many musicians around the world.
Nakamichi has given many recitals in Japan, including the series of 5 concerts titled “Ikuyo Nakamichi’s New World” in 1992; the Bach-Beethoven-Brahms series held 5 years in a row from 1994 at Casals Hall in Tokyo; and the “Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas,” held over a 4-year period from 1997 at Philia Hall in Yokohama and at Kobe Gakuin University. Each of these series has earned Nakamichi high praise for her earnest attitude towards the works and for her superior musicality.
In 2002, Nakamichi undertook the ground-breaking project of performing the complete Beethoven sonatas--as well as explaining, discussing and analyzing them with Beethoven scholar and composer Makoto Moroi—in 12 performances at the Saitama Arts Theater titled “Workshop for discussing and listening to Beethoven’s 32 sonatas.” For these performances she was hailed as “the pianist of today who comes closest to the genuine beauty of Beethoven’s sonatas.” In conjunction with this project, Nakamichi has undertaken the recording of Beethoven’s complete sonatas (11 CDs in total). All of the CDs released to date have been selected as specially recommended recordings by the magazine “Record Arts,” and the series has been highly anticipated and highly acclaimed as a comprehensive, large-scale project.
Nakamichi has expanded her Beethoven projects beyond her 2 sonata concert series, to performances of the composer’s concertos and chamber music works. Starting in 2004, she performed “Beethoven’s complete piano concertos” at Philia Hall in Yokohama and Kobe Gakuin University, conducted by Tetsuro Ban and Gerhard Bosse respectively; and from 2005, at JT Art Hall, she has given a series of chamber concerts under the title “Ikuyo Nakamichi’s Beethoven Cycle,” featuring cello and violin sonatas each performed with a different artist. With her recordings of the 6 piano concertos with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, under the baton of Paavo Järvi, she has firmly established her reputation as “Beethoven performer Ikuyo Nakamichi.”
In addition to recitals, many projects have been born from Nakamichi’s various ideas and passions. In 1996 she began "Ikuyo Nakamichi's Music School," which is made up of “theatrical performance” mixed with music in the first half of the program and “musical performance” in the second half. The project has drawn international attention as the first of its kind in the world. Nakamichi presented a master class at the Manhattan School of Music in 1999 on the theme "experiments in new modes of expression," and in 2000 she gave a successful "Music School" tour of Asian countries. The project has been an important part of her life work. In 2003 the title of the project was changed to “Playing to your heart’s content in the world of music,” and then to “Sorry! Playing with the classics”; and in 2005, in its 10th year, Nakamichi temporarily ended the project. Then in March of 2008, she performed in the work “4 X 4,” produced by the Hyogo Performing Arts Center. With this performance, the combination of music and theatrical staging once again drew a great deal of public attention.
Nakamichi’s wish to “give children the gift of wonderful encounters with music” led to the inauguration in the fall of 2000 of a series of mini-concerts titled "The Zoo in the Sky (with pictures and talking and piano)"; and in 2004, Part 2 of the series, called “Children of Light (animal poems with piano and slides).” This series, with its charming piano playing and storytelling, has been very popular. Recently Nakamichi has been taking part from the concert planning stage together with the concert hall presenters, and along with the delightful concerts her wonderful humanity has been winning over more and more fans.
In recent years, out of a desire to “do what I can as a pianist and a human being, little by little,” Nakamichi has been giving hospital and charity concerts. In 2002 and 2006 she performed in the “Campaign against children’s cancer,” sponsored by Mainichi Shimbun.
Since 2003, with the aim of activating regional communities and expanding musical culture, Nakamichi has been working actively in her roles as special instructor at Osaka College of Music, and director of regional foundation projects.
Nakamichi has an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music Japan International and has released many CDs, including an album which set a record as the top-selling classical music recording to date. Her recordings of Beethoven piano sonatas 30, 31 and 32 earned the 2007 45th Record Academy award (instrumental division). As a writer, she has published the DVD book “Blissful Piano – to play, to listen to, and to enjoy” (Kodansha), the compilation “Learning about Famous Pianos and Piano Music through CDs,” and others.
The 2006/07season was the 20th anniversary of Nakamichi’s debut. She gave anniversary concerts in locations throughout Japan, including the “20th anniversary recital series no. 1” at Kioi Hall on November 5, 2006; a performance with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under the baton of Paavo Järvi on July 17, 2007; and the “20th anniversary recital series no. 2” at Suntory Hall on November 11, 2007, all with great success.
Currently Nakamichi is performing in various projects that are receiving widespread attention, including the “Chopin Keyboard Mysteries,” depicting the composer’s life through images and stories; and a complete Mozart piano sonata series. She will give concerts nationwide, and a recital at Suntory Hall on February 21, 2010.
Ikuyo Nakamichi Official Home Page: http://www.ikuyo-nakamichi.com/