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“Hearing Rachmaninov was like a shock!” – An interview with Yuki Ito

25 May 2018 Suzanne Frost

At just 28, Yuki Ito is one of the leading cellists of his generation. Having grown up in London as a teenager, Yuki returns to his second home with a programme of Rachmaninov. The melancholic Russian composer has been close to his heart and a constant throughout his career. Yuki told London Calling what he loves about Rachmaninov and the somewhat surprising way he came to play the cello in the first place.

London Calling: You are bringing a full Rachmaninov programme to London, something you have long dreamed of. What is your special bond with Rachmaninov?
Yuki Ito: I started playing the cello at the age of 6 and only a few years after I started playing, I fell in love with Rachmaninov’s music. The first thing I heard was the Cello Sonata in G Minor and it was like a shock! I was really amazed that such beautiful music exists on this planet. I felt as if the music was coming from inside my heart and body. I know this sounds funny but I felt like it was composed by myself. And that feeling remained. Often the feelings you have when you are very young will change or disappear when you grow up. But this for me really hasn’t changed at all, and I am 28 now. He was my favourite composer and he still is. His pieces are really important for me.



LC: How did you pick the cello?
YI: I started with the violin. My dad liked playing just for fun, and he gave me a violin when I was 5. But then I started questioning, why do I have to stand playing the violin when my teacher is sitting? So I spoke to my parents about this and I whined quite a lot until they said if you really want to sit when playing, quit the violin and try the cello and if you don’t like that just quit playing. That was when I was 6 and I have played the cello ever since. All because I was able to sit!
 
LC: The cello does have that melancholic, romantic sound.
YI: Yes it does. I believe that the sound of the cello is really similar to the male voice. I felt when I started playing, that the range of the cello’s sound was really similar to my voice so that was partly why I immediately liked it. I think violin was a little too high for me. It’s not just range of sounds but also this melancholy, I think the cello sounds really romantic.
 
LC: You actually have a radio show called “Yuki Ito, The Romantic”
YI: Yes! But that title doesn’t just refer to the romanticism of the cello but I love musical works composed in the late romantic era. In my radio show I introduce a lot of that late romantic era music to the listeners. I think, without me noticing, I am really drawn to these romantic things. I’m not sure if I am a romantic person or not but in terms of music, yes!

 Yuki Ito ©Hideki Shiozawa

LC: What is a usual day like for you, you probably travel a lot?
YI: I moved to London when I was 15 and I didn’t really go back to Japan until I was 20, but I was travelling a lot in Europe to perform and to listen. I started conducting at an early age, too, so that also made me go to a lot of concerts abroad. At the age of 21 I started performing a lot in Japan as well. Travelling with a cello to Japan is quite something!
 
LC: So can we imagine you practising in hotels and airports?
YI: When I can.  If I don’t practise for a day, I notice that something is not right. More than 2 or 3 days is really not good.
 
LC: You spent your teenage years in London, are you excited to be back?
YI: I feel at home in both London and Tokyo. I spent a lot of my life here and I still have my flat in London. I feel completely at home here and it’s so nice for me to return and perform at Wigmore Hall. It is an honour for me.

Yuki Itu is presenting his all Rachmaninov programme with Sofya Gulyak on piano at Wigmore Hall on 2 June at 1 pm.
 
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