October 20, 2016

Exclusive insights by Mari Kodama & Momo Kodama

For their release of Tchaikovsky – Ballet Suites Transcribed for Piano Duo sisters Mari Kodama and Momo Kodama have shared some exclusive insights on their album and their unique collaboration! 

Working together as sisters is not always easy:

This is our very first recording together and as we don’t often get the opportunity to play together, it has been a lot of fun doing this as sisters. Individually, we consider ourselves to be very different pianists with our own ideas and approaches. Coming together on this project with the same aim, we did have spirited discussions and fair share of disputes as we can be honest with each other. Yet, we always find our way together, from different angles. This has made our recording experience of these works extremely delightful and has brought us a lot of sisterly joy!”

”Our challenge was to use just two pianos, twenty fingers on four hands, to bring the same sense of vast scale while maintaining a measure of freedom, and perhaps a different way of interpreting the pieces. When you are with a whole orchestra, you usually have the setting of a huge hall with a big stage and a sense of grandeur. However, when you are with just two pianos, the atmosphere is much more intimate, bringing a different quality to the music. Bearing in mind that the composers who made these transcriptions – Arensky, Debussy and Rachmaninoff, all brought their own personality in the works, we also wanted to embrace them and reflect that in our playing.”

“One evening after a beautiful dinner, a good friend of ours with a love for rare and obscure music, handed us Arensky’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker to play as a piano duet. There and then, we sight-read it over a glass of wine all in the name of fun. The scores turned out to be such wonderful music that we decided to play it in our concerts, and that was of great success! Following that, we looked up on more arrangements made by other famous composers, such as Debussy and Rachmaninov, of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, that a friend had told us about.”

”We practically grew up with the Nutcracker. We were about three or four years old when our music teacher gave us a recording – our first recording of Nutcracker, which we played at the time. Growing up, we always looked forward to going to the ballet every Christmas and up to this day, there’s still something special about the purity of this beautiful childhood fantasy: the freedom to wonder and to dream.”’

‘All three ballets of Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, are fairytales! Romantic ones of course, where the stories are always of beautiful ladies and handsome princes. Tchaikovsky was truly the first composer to combine a broad sweep of ballet music with a great story; since before him, these resembled simply of a compilation of pieces. And he was such a wonderful composer! In all three works there is folkloric and popular music combined with exceptional orchestration. He has the special skill of combining instruments to paint such vivid colours and textures on a large canvas, making his orchestral works very special.”