Masaaki Suzuki on moving beyond Bach

Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki is renowned as a fine interpreter of the works of JS Bach. Since founding Bach Collegium Japan in 1990, his performances and recordings by the great composer have won multiple awards and praise from critics across the globe. However for their spring tour this year, Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan will move beyond Bach and present an entirely-classical era programme for the very first time. We caught up with Suzuki ahead of his performance at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on 29 May.

You are a leading expert on the works of JS Bach, as demonstrated by your extensive experience as conductor, harpsichordist and organist with Bach Collegium Japan. What first drew you to his music?
Firstly, when I was a young teenager, the enormous musical energy of his music drew me as if I were running with full speed. A little later, the intricacy of polyphonic structure, often together with that speed feeling, completely captured me.

Can you tell us more about why you have decided to move beyond the works of JS Bach for your spring tour this year?
Since almost no composer later than J.S. Bach could escape from his influence, it is quite natural for us to move forward to the later music, and so interesting to find out how Bach influenced these composers. But also, Mozart, Beethoven and many other composers equally have enormous power for us. The power of this music is one of most important elements for me to survive this world.

Your recent recording of Mozart’s Mass in C minor has been highly praised. What is your take on the piece and what draws you to return to it this spring?
This is certainly one of the most beautiful examples of Mass in the classical era, where the composer has achieved the so-called Sonata form together with the Mass text, which theoretically is not related to the form. Although it is incomplete, the sound and structure are so beautiful, so I decided to take it up as the first repertory after Bach in the international tour of Bach Collegium Japan.

What are you most looking forward to about returning to the Concertgebouw next month, and what can people expect from this performance?
The Netherlands is a kind of my second homeland, and it is always great pleasure for me to have concerts there. The Concertgebouw especially is a very special venue for me, not only because of its wonderful acoustic, but also because of the enthusiastic Dutch audience.

You have just released a new recording of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis on BIS Records, the latest addition to your already extensive discography. Are there any other recordings in the pipeline?
We are planning to release a recording of Beethoven 9, which was composed more or less at the same time as Missa Solemnis and is so interesting to contrast with it. In terms of Bach, all the choir works have been recorded, but the Harpsichord Concerti will be recorded by my son, Masato, with Bach Collegium Japan, and I will be working on more solo CDs of organ and Harpsichord. In a few years time, we are hoping to record Mendelssohn Eliahs and Paulus.

Bach Collegium Japan will perform Haydn’s Symphony No. 48 in G major ‘Maria Theresa’ and Mozart’s Mass in C minor ‘Great’ at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on 29 May 2018.

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