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Guide to the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo

“Järvi led a passionate, ebullient reading. The NHK strings have a wonderfully dark, mahogany sound, evident from the sonorous cellos and double basses and the honeyed violins, split antiphonally, caressing phrases with the utmost care. Järvi’s conducting is totally non-flashy, never drawing attention to himself. [...] One of the finest accounts of the Second I’ve heard in concert. ”

Mark Pullinger, London, February 2020

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TokyoLeonard Slatkin conducts John Adams and Toshio Hosokawa

Hosokawa, Adams, Vaughan Williams
NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo; Leonard Slatkin; Branford Marsalis

TokyoSlatkin conducts Aaron Copland

NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo; Leonard Slatkin; Kanji Ishimaru

TokyoRay Chen plays Mendelssohn

Haydn, Mendelssohn, McTee
NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo; Leonard Slatkin; Ray Chen

TokyoRodrigo and Berlioz

Unknown, Rodrigo, Berlioz
NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo; Robert Spano; Pablo Sáinz Villegas
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Passionate, ebullient Rachmaninov from Paavo Jarvi and the NHK

Paavo Järvi and the NHK Symphony Orchestra © Belinda Lawley
Igor Stravinsky once described Sergei Rachmaninov as "a six-and-a-half foot scowl". His Second Symphony – often a lugubrious affair – was here turned into something urgent and vital. 

Riveting Schumann and Schubert in Tokyo

Paavo Järvi © Kaupo Kikkas
Paarvo Järvi and the NHK Symphony give a riveting account of Schumann and Schubert.

Steinberg brings Bohemia’s woods and fields to Tokyo

© Pinchas Steinberg
Tokyo’s NHK Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pinchas Steinberg, gives a performance of perhaps the most famous of Bedrich Smetana’s works, a romantic tribute to his motherland, Má vlast.

Mendelssohn in Tokyo: Luisi, Znaider and NHKSO

Nikolai Znaider © Lars Gundersen
Nikolaj Znaider and Fabio Luisi, along with NHKSO Tokyo, re-stated the obvious truth of art music that “it is all about the details.”
Paavo Järvi © Julia Bayer

Myths and misunderstandings: Paavo Järvi and the NHK Symphony

We spoke to Paavo Järvi, Chief Conductor of the NHK Symphony, ahead of their 2020 European tour.

The history of the NHK Symphony Orchestra dates back to October 5th, 1926 when a professional orchestra called the New Symphony Orchestra was formed. After being briefly called the Japan Symphony Orchestra, it was renamed the NHK Symphony Orchestra when it began to receive full financial support from Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) in 1951. During those years, the orchestra invited German conductor Joseph Rosenstock as its Chief Conductor, under whose baton the orchestra established the foundation to become Japan’s leading orchestra. Thereafter, the orchestra continually invited many of the world’s most renowned conductors of the time, including Herbert von Karajan, Ernest Ansermet, Joseph Keilberth and Lovro von Matačić, to name but a few, and worked with some of the world’s most celebrated soloists to offer the public innumerable outstanding performances which have become entrenched as part of Japan’s history of classical music. The subscription concerts series, which is the core of its activities, started on February 20th, 1927, and has continued without interruption ever since, even during the Second World War.

In recent years, the orchestra has presented approximately 120 concerts nationwide annually, including 54 subscription concerts which have been relayed to every corner of the country on NHK television and through FM radio broadcasts. The concerts can also be heard in Europe, the United States and Asia through its international broadcast service. It has also won world-wide acclaim for its overseas tours, including its first appearance in the Salzburg Festival in August 2013 and its European tour of major cities including Berlin and Vienna in 2017 and 2020.

Conductors who are closely associated with the NHK Symphony Orchestra include Paavo Järvi (Chief Conductor), Charles Dutoit (Music Director Emeritus), Herbert Blomstedt (Honorary Conductor Laureate), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Conductor Laureate), Yuzo Toyama (Permanent Conductor) and Tadaaki Otaka (Permanent Conductor).