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Momo Kodma’s first ECM New Series album is a marvel, a mesmerizing journey from the shimmering surfaces of Miroirs, Maurice Ravel’s piano cycle of 1904-45 to Olivier Messiaen’s Fauvette des jardins (written in 1970), a late masterpiece of piano music from the visionary composer. Kodama’s insights into Messiaen’s sound-world enable her to convey his religious feeling for nature, for birdsong transfigured, through the compelling, insistent piano figures, into spiritual utterance. Linking Ravel’s valley of the bells and Messiaen’s open sound field is Toru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch (1982), music from the East informed by Western experiment, a Japanese reflection on French music. “Its opening bars” writes Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich in the liner notes, “evoke not only the rapturous crystalline chord progressions of Messiaen, but also the flashing, glittering sophistication of Ravel.”

Kodama has a personal perspective on dialogues of Orient and Occident. Born in Osaka, she spent her early childhood in Germany, moving to France at 13 to become the youngest student ever accepted at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique in Paris. Later there were studies with great pianists including Murray Perahia, András Schiff, Vera Gornostaeva and Tatiana Nikolaïeva. At 19 Momo Kodama was the Munich International Competition’s youngest prize winner.

She has gone on to play with leading orchestra of Japan, Europe and the US and worked with conductors including Seiji Ozawa, Kent Nagano, Roger Norrington, Charles Dutoit, Eliahu Inbal, Valery Gergiev and Lawrence Foster. Her chamber music partners include Steven Isserlis, Rohan de Saram, Renaud Capucon, Augustin Dumay and Jörg Widmann. Momo and sister Mari Kodama, meanwhile, form a piano duo that plays the core repertoire and premieres new works.

Momo Kodama’s recital repertoire reaches from Bach to the avant-garde. A major part of her performance schedule is dedicated to contemporary music, and Messiaen has been a special focus. In 2002, on the 10th anniversary of Messiaen's death, she performed his Turangalîla Symphony, Les Visions de l'Amen with her sister Mari, and Les vingt regards sur l'enfant- Jésus in a series of highly successful concerts. In the Messiaen centenary year 2008 she received awards in Japan for a concert series dedicated to the composer. At the Festival La Roque d'Antheréon 2006, at the urging of Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, she premiered, with Isabelle Faust, Messiaen's Fantasie for violin and piano, a piece written in 1933 but never previously performed. Her recordings of the Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus and the Catalogue d’Oiseaux for Triton, received high critical acclaim. In 2008 she commissioned Toshio Hosokawa’s Stunden Blumen, a work with the same instrumentation as Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, and performed both pieces at festivals in Lucerne, Paris, Hamburg and Vienna.

A number of composers have written works for Kodama. She is also the dedicatee of works including Lichtstudie 3 by Jörg Widmann, which she premiered at the Lucerne Festival, and Echo by Ichiro Nodaira, which was composed for Momo and Mari Kodama.

La vallée des cloches was recorded at Reitstadel, Neumarkt in September 2012, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

© Studio Svengali, April 2024
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