Japanese Pianist Returns to Phnom Penh for Weekend Concerts

If anyone needed convincing that Western classical music is very much of our time in Asia, meeting Japanese pianist Miki Aoki would do it.

At Friday’s press conference at the InterContinental Hotel, where Ms. Aoki is performing Saturday night and Sunday morning, the concert pianist managed to make classical music and obscure composers come to life as she explained why she would play less familiar Russian and Hungarian pieces for her audiences in Phnom Penh.

Pianist Miki Aoki, who is performing Saturday and Sunday in Phnom Penh. (Silke Woweries Photography)
Pianist Miki Aoki, who is performing Saturday and Sunday in Phnom Penh. (Silke Woweries Photography)

Dressed simply but very much in the latest style complete with sculpted shoes with 15-centimeter high heels, Ms. Aoki said that she had dedicated her 2013

album to Russian music patron Mitrofan Belyayev of the late 19th century.

“Little is known about him but he actually played a huge role for these musicians,” making it possible for Russian composers to be played outside their country, she said. Some of these composers may not be household names today but their work is nonetheless beautiful, she added.

Ms. Aoki, who teaches at Austria’s Graz University for Music and the Performing Arts, had just arrived in Phnom Penh from Los Angeles late Thursday night. In addition to performing in Los Angeles as part of a U.S. tour, Ms. Aoki, for the first time ever, was asked to record music for an upcoming feature film.

The recording session took place at The Village studio, a small but famous facility that some 20th century music legends—ranging from Bob Dylan and Ray Charles to Elton John and The Beach Boys—have used, she said.

Ms. Aoki, who performs mainly in Europe and the U.S., first performed in Cambodia in 2010, she said.

That concert also took place at the InterContinental Hotel, said General Manager Stefan Voogel.

“We hope to encourage musicians of Ms. Aoki’s stature to come to Cambodia…and to inspire Cambodian youth…to grow in that direction,” he said.

Asked whether young Cambodians should pursue music careers in view of the few opportunities to perform in the country, Ms. Aoki had this advice: “I always say that if you have passion for playing and if you love music, you cannot give up.”

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