Want to go?
• WHAT: Michiko Otaki and the Graffe Quartet
• WHEN: 8 p.m. April 8
• WHERE: Firelands Presbyterian Church, 2626 East Harbor Rd., Port Clinton
• COST: $15/ticket
• INFO: 419-734-6211
World-renowned pianist Michiko Otaki has performed at major venues such as Washington’s National Gallery, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Cleveland’s Museum of Art and the Chamber Music Hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic. But the Japan native, who now calls Atlanta home, has fond memories about her many appearances in Port Clinton.
She returns to the Buckeye State once again for a Musical Art Series at Firelands show taking place April 8 at the Firelands Presbyterian Church. Joining her will be her good friends, the Czech musicians of the Graffe Quartet. Funcoast talked to Otaki about her love of Northern Ohio, her storied career and the upcoming show.
Funcoast: First of all, how many times do you think you’ve been through our area over the years?
Michiko Otaki: Port Clinton has been one of my regular stops since 1990. I’ve played there, I don’t know how many times. I’ve been going there probably almost every year. I enjoy it because the people there are so very, very nice. I used to play at the high school and now it’s moved to the Firelands Presbyterian. Both places are wonderful places to play. The high school acoustics were wonderful and I like the intimacy of the church.
FC: In looking over your career as a chamber musician, you’ve worked with everyone from the Graffe String Quartet, Kodaly String Quartet, Swiss Wind Quintet, Martinu String Quartetto Russian/Slovak violinist Alexander Jablokov, English violist Roger Chase and more. What is it about your talents that have opened so many doors for you professionally?
MO: Oh goodness. A lot of it is luck, really, a lot of good fortune. Many, many people and many pianists play beautifully. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with wonderful chamber groups and soloists, and I think they have helped me grow as a pianist and artist. I did a lot of chamber music and accompanying even though I don’t call myself a professional accompanist. I do play some solo as well, but what I treasured most is working with other musicians and the communication through music. I don’t know if I do it super good, but that’s the part I really enjoy and since no one complained, I guess I do it fairly well.
FC: Looking ahead to the upcoming show, tell us about the program.
MO: I play one piece with the quartet — a piano and strings quintet by a Czech composer named Vitezslav Novák. He was very interested in Czech traditional music, folklore, so you’d hear a little bit of a Czech dance in it. It’s a lovely piece. The quartet introduced me to this piece. I didn’t know anything about it until we started working on it a year ago, and I’ve been loving it. We recorded it. A CD should be coming out later this year. Also, the quartet for this program in Port Clinton will play a Mozart string quartet and Debussy string quartet (without me).
FC: You’ve been working alongside the Graffe Quartet for a while. How did that relationship start?
MO: For one thing, they play beautifully. The first time I met them was in 2005. They were part of a chamber orchestra and I played with them. The quartet members handed me their CD, and I actually knew about the quartet long before that. Then after I heard that CD, I told my manager I want to work with this one, they’re so good.
FC: Finally, why should people think about coming out to the Firelands Presbyterian Church show?
MO: It’s just great music. Those works by Mozart, Debussy and Novák are really worth hearing, and especially the Novák. It’s so seldom played, and it’s unfortunate because it’s really a fantastic piece of music. It’s beautiful, exquisite and very touching, I think. So hopefully people will walk away feeling enriched. The quartet does play beautifully. There are many, many string quartets professionally playing today but this one is really special.
Michiko Otaki and the Graffe Quartet are scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. April 8 at the Firelands Presbyterian Church, 2626 East Harbor Road, Port Clinton. Tickets are $15. Call 419-734-6211.