Samurai Pianist Kyohei Sorita
Musicians who don’t travel are unfortunate

  • TEXT
  • Sanae Murakami
  • Tsukuru Asada(MILD) 
  • share:

Samurai Pianist Kyohei Sorita Musicians who don’t travel are unfortunate

  • Including as a world-class pianist who won 2nd Prize at the Chopin Competition, Kyohei Sorita has many sides to him. He is also a conductor, producer and entrepreneur. To him, travel is an essential part of life. Let’s hear the reason, as well as more about his passion for music, dreams and life.
  • After moving to Moscow at the age of 19 and studying there for three and a half years, I transferred to the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw in 2017 at the age of 23. I am still at the university, currently taking condunting lesson by Yuji Yuasa in Vienna.
  • I feel that pianists must be equally able to play pieces composed by a wide range of composers. In order to make each piece my own, I believe it is necessary to live in the same place the music was composed and breathe the same air, use the same words and smell the same smells as the composer. Just as green tea served in a modern looking Western establishment does not taste the same as green tea served in a traditional Japanese home, it is important to personally experience the place where that culture was born.
  • This is why musicians such as me spend our lives traveling. Mozart once said, “Musicians who don’t travel are unfortunate”. I believe this to be true. Ideally, I would like to live somewhere for three years in order to learn the language and fully experience the culture and daily life, but even staying a short time for a concert or other event makes a difference.
  • I have visited many countries and towns, spoken with countless people, eaten local foods and stayed at hotels. Experiencing the culture, traditions and “this is what we value here” adds to my repertoire. The size of one’s repertoire is extremely important for musicians because it relates to how we interpret and express the music.

Playing the piano with a desire to avoid all regret

  • After studying in Moscow, I had the choice of studying in either Vienna or New York, but ultimately, I chose Warsaw, Poland. One of the reasons was the Chopin Competition. I believed that in order to achieve a good result at the competition, I needed to live and learn in Chopin’s home country.
  • Initially, I intended to compete in the 2020 competition, but due to COVID-19, it was delayed until the fall of 2021. As a result, I had a full four years to prepare. At the competition, by choosing a piece that appealed to the audience in Warsaw and interpreting it based on an image of the culture and era in which Chopin lived, I feel I was able to make full use of the experience I gained while living in Warsaw.
  • .....At the same time, mentally, I was a mess. I was under so much tension and stress that I almost threw up when the zipper on my coat touched my neck. During the final stage, I had to open the top two buttons on my shirt. Originally, I planned to perform looking sharp with a nicely tightened necktie.
  • I am usually brave and never tense, but I ended up in that state because of the weight of the pressure I placed on myself. I was starting to be recognized within classical music circles in Japan, so participating in the competition was in some ways risky. Failing to achieve a good result would have let my fans and sponsors down and could have made them doubt if they have a good ear for music. I never want to make my supporters feel that way. In addition, there are the members of the orchestra, which was established to “perform on the world stage”. They trust and believe in me, and I wanted to win in order to repay their trust.
  • I am very competitive and feel more than the average person a desire to avoid regret in life. I want to make use of every opportunity that presents itself so that I would be content even if I die tomorrow. At the same time, I give my full heart and soul to all of my endeavors. This is how I have lived my life. The reason I pulled my hair back and tied it in a samurai style was to increase the European audience’s interest in me as the “Samurai pianist”. It may not look like it, but I have a lot of ideas running through my head.

It may be new to classical music, but it is completely normal to me

  • In May 2021, I incorporated the Japan National Orchestra (originally the MLM Double Quartet established in 2018) in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. People may wonder why I established a joint-stock company, a first in the history of orchestras in Japan. It is so that the members can be hired as employees and paid a salary as they focus on their musical activities.
  • The reason the Japan National Orchestra is based in Nara City is that my sponsor DMG Mori Seiki is headquartered here. In addition to having a support structure here, the fact that it is a popular place among foreign citizens was also a major reason. I intend to expand the orchestra’s activities overseas, and at some point, I hope people will come from overseas to attend our concerts in Nara City. Nara has a long history and rich natural environment, so it is also a great place for sightseeing. In addition, I want to make the orchestra members more international, and I feel Nara will be an enjoyable place for them to live. I also have plans to establish a music academy here in the near future.
  • I operate a management company, and in 2019, I launched the classical music label “NOVA Record”. In April 2020, I held an online concert with no in-person audience. In addition, I have made recordings available for a fee on the app Note, and I am making lessons by professional musicians available on the online salon “Solistiade”.
  • These initiatives are often called “new” or “revolutionary”, but to me they are completely normal. Beethoven and Mozart wrote their own music, searched for patrons, found places to perform and earned a living. I am just doing the same thing. COVID-19 has caused many concerts to be cancelled, and there are a lot of musicians who have lost much of their income. At the same time, there are a great number of tools available today that enable musicians to reach their audience and earn income. It would be a shame if these tools are unused. Going forward, I expect more musicians to follow in my footsteps and establish their own companies.

Becoming a pianist who can impress the audience with a single note

  • Since the Chopin Competition, I have received messages such as “Your performance saved me”, and I have also been heard from children attending my concerts who have said “I want to be a musician”. I think I am slowly nearing the goal I have had since the age of 14 of “becoming a musician who makes people dream”. If that is true, then all of my hard work and sacrifice has been worth it.
  • There is still much I want to accomplish. Even if I live to be 100 years old, it may not be long enough. I am interested to learn what my music will sound like when I am 60 or 70 years old. It would be fantastic if when I am 80, I become a pianist who can impress the audience with a single note that expresses “this is how I lived”.
  • Including with this ultimate goal in mind, I want to make many friends with whom I can share music, have diverse new experiences, travel and further increase my repertoire.