Yuhki Kuramoto returns with poetic piano tunes
By Han Sang-hee
Just like his music, pianist Yuhki Kuramoto’s voice flows like a gentle stream.
He seldom raises his voice — except to tell a witty joke— and it goes up and down like one of his piano works: soft, yet swift and delightful to listen to.
When The Korea Times met with him for an interview Monday at a rehearsal venue in Seocho-dong, he was reading his music notes in preparation for his upcoming concert, neatly dressed in a striped shirt and a soft brown leather jacket.
The 59-year-old pianist was fresh from a special event, the Arirang Festival 2010 which was held Tuesday evening at Seoul Square, where he joined local and foreign artists and played various versions of the Korean folk song “Arirang.”
“I first listened to ‘Arirang’ when I was a teenager in the 1960s, and I always wondered what the lyrics meant,” he said.
Like many folk songs that survive generations, Arirang’s melody sticks to the ear. While some artists explain that the simple melody is what makes it a winner, Kuramoto takes a more thoughtful perspective.
“Just when the song is about to reach the climax, it swiftly moves to the next note, creating a composition of introduction, development, turn and conclusion to the overall melody. It’s simple, straightforward and very well organized,” he said.
Instead of jumping from one note to the other, “Arirang” moves up and down in a more graceful manner: no sudden jumps or surprises. “So the melody is very smooth, which makes it a very good song indeed,” he said with a firm nod.
Kuramoto has visited Korea several times to give performances since 1999 and when asked about the Korean audience, the pianist smiled.
“I have seldom visited for personal purposes, usually for concerts and performances, but whenever I come, I feel a bit relieved. Something like ‘Ah, I’m back.’”
Another interesting part of the Korean audience, he added, was the age demographics.
It’s quite difficult to attract a wide range of fans, especially when you are in the instrumental music scene in an era where there are numerous genres practically for everyone.
Yet at Kuramoto’s performances, you can find young couples, children and even elderly couples: all who have been touched by the pianist’s poetic melodies.
“I can feel that the range is growing wider, I am very happy and grateful about that,” he said.
Not including lyrics to express his emotions, Kuramoto’s works offer the luxury of imagination. For some, his works may remind them of their loved ones, others their current state of mind, happy moments or memories of the past. Hence the poetic album titles: “Heartstrings,” “Piano Nostalgia,” “Sailing in Silence,” “Romance” and “Reminiscence.”
“Yearning for dreams and experiences not yet realized, people and love is what I think about when playing and making songs. I think they (represent) a longing for new, unknown places that are beautiful, warm and friendly.”
Luckily, fans will be able to experience his music at a concert on Oct. 2 under the title “Piano Poem.”
“It will be so poetic, you won’t need any more poetic (emotions) for the remaining year!” he said laughing.
“My music is like sweet (desserts). Not too sweet, but fresh and sweet at the same time. I want my music to be like Korean food. There are so many various dishes, but all share the same category: Korean food. The music I make all share the same identity: me,” he said.
At the concert, Koramoto will offer some of his best pieces, including “Romance,” “Elysium,” “Emerald Lake” and “Lake Louise,” and also new numbers from his recent album “Piano Poem.”
“If you have never been to one of my concerts,” Kuramoto added with a twinkle in his eye, “please come and enjoy the poetic (vibe) with friends and family. Or even come all by yourself!”
“Piano Poem” will be held at Seoul Arts Center, Oct. 2. Tickets cost from 30,000 won to 100,000 won. Call 1577-5266.