Ikuyo Nakamichi, who made her debut in Japan and Europe in 1987, is one of the most outstanding and sought-after pianists in Japan.
Ikuyo Nakamichi began her piano studies under Mitsuko Kinpara. While a junior high school student, she received instruction from Phyllis Rappaport in the state of Michigan, U.S.A. After graduating from Toho Gakuen High School, she entered Toho Gakuen School of Music, where she studied under Kazuhiko Nakajima. In her freshman year, Nakamichi attracted a great deal of attention when she won the first prize and the Masuzawa Prize at the 51st Annual Japan Music Competition. She went on to study under Prof. Klaus Schilde at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich on a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
While studying in Munich, Nakamichi took the top prizes at the Geneva International Music Competition, the first prize at the Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin, and the fifth prize at the Concours Musical International Reine Elisabeth de Belgique. She subsequently began her performing activity in Europe and Japan, and recognition of her achievements led to her being awarded the Muramatsu Prize (1988) and the Mobile Music Prize (1993) in Japan.
With a broad repertory ranging from Classical to Romantic, Nakamichi has performed as a soloist with Japan's leading orchestras as well as many European and American orchestras, including the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste; the London Mozart Players under Günter Pichler; the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and the Philharmonia Orchestra, all under Lorin Maazel; the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra under Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi; the English Chamber Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Canada, both under Pinchas Zukerman; the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Heinrich Schiff; and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, earning high critical acclaim for her musicality. Among the other conductors with whom she has performed are Nello Santi, Claus Peter Flore, Kazimierz Kord and Paavo Järvi.
Nakamichi performed as a soloist on the European tour of the (then) Japan Shinsei Symphony Orchestra and the U.S. tour of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990; and on the European tour of the Japan Philharmonic in 1991. On these tours she received high praise from local newspaper reviewers, who said: “The harmony between her outstanding technique and graceful, poetic sensibility was highly impressive,” and “Her clear and bold grasp of the music were magnificent throughout.”
In 1999, Nakamichi gave her debut recital performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 2001 she made her concerto debuts in St. Petersburg and at the Berlin Philharmonie. In 2005 she performed to high acclaim in the “Wedding celebration concert” presented by the English Chamber Orchestra at Windsor Castle, attended by Crown Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
In the chamber music field, Nakamichi collaborates with such renowned ensembles as the Hagen String Quartet, the Berlin Brandis String Quartet, the Cherubini String Quartet, the Shostakovich String Quartet and the Berlin Philharmonic Octet. Her duo performances with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and violinist Josef Suk, both world-renowned artists, have won great critical acclaim, and she has earned the profound trust of many musicians around the world.
Nakamichi has given many recitals in Japan, including the series of five concerts titled “Ikuyo Nakamichi’s New World” in 1992; the Bach-Beethoven-Brahms series held over a five-year period from 1994 at Casals Hall in Tokyo; and the “Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas,” held over a four-year period from 1997 at Philia Hall in Yokohama and at Kobe Gakuin University. Each of these series has earned Nakamichi high praise for her earnest attitude towards the works and for her superior musicality. She has also earned acclaim for her concerts at Suntory Hall, which have become an annual tradition.
In 2002, Nakamichi undertook a groundbreaking project titled “Workshop for discussing and listening to Beethoven's 32 sonatas.” In this 12-performance, four-year-long series held at Saitama Arts Theater, she performed the complete Beethoven sonatas and explained, discussed and analyzed them together with composer/music critic Makoto Moroi. For these performances she was hailed as “the pianist of today who comes closest to the genuine beauty of Beethoven’s sonatas.” In conjunction with this project, Nakamichi has undertaken the recording of Beethoven’s complete sonatas (11 CDs in total). All of the CDs released to date have been selected as specially recommended recordings by the magazine “Record Arts,” and the recordings of Beethoven piano sonatas 30, 31 and 32 earned the 2007 45th Record Academy Award (instrumental division).
Nakamichi has expanded her Beethoven projects beyond her two sonata concert series, to performances of the composer's concertos and chamber music works. Starting in 2004, she performed “Beethoven’s complete piano concertos” at Philia Hall in Yokohama and Kobe Gakuin University, conducted by Tetsuro Ban and Gerhard Bosse respectively; and from 2005, at JT Art Hall, she has given a series of chamber concerts under the title “Ikuyo Nakamichi’s Beethoven Cycle,” featuring cello and violin sonatas each performed with a different artist. Particularly with her recordings of the six piano concertos with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under the baton of Paavo Järvi, she has firmly established her reputation as “Beethoven performer Ikuyo Nakamichi.”
She has also earned high praise for her Mozart and Chopin projects. Her concert series of Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas received widespread attention. Her CDs “Complete Mozart Sonatas” were selected as specially recommended recordings in the November 2013 issue of “Record Arts,” and praised as “the definitive recordings of Mozart performed on the contemporary piano.” Chopin is a composer whose works Nakamichi has always engaged with. In particular, her project “Chopin Keyboard Mysteries,” depicting the composer’s life through images and stories, has won favorable recognition.
Nakamichi has been active in developing new modes of expression for the deeper appreciation of music. In 1996 she began "Ikuyo Nakamichi's Music School," which is made up of “theatrical performance” mixed with music in the first half of the program and “musical performance” in the second half. (In 2003 the title of the project was changed to “Sorry! Playing with the Classics.”) The project has drawn international attention as the first of its kind in the world. Nakamichi presented a master class at the Manhattan School of Music in 1999 on the theme "experiments in new modes of expression," and in 2000 she carried out a successful tour in Asian countries. Other realizations of the combination of music and theatrical staging are the works “4 X 4,” produced by the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in 2008, “Beyond the Window” (2012), and the Japan tour of “The Romantics Syndrome” (2016/17). Nakamichi has also undertaken numerous projects combining dance and fine arts, as well as performances at museums.
Nakamichi's wish to “give children the gift of wonderful encounters with music” led to the inauguration in the fall of 2000 of a series of mini-concerts using slides, titled "The Zoo in the Sky (with pictures and talking and piano)"; in 2004, Part 2 of the series, called “Children of Light (animal poems with piano and slides)”; and in 2011, Part 3, “The Mysterious Ball.” This series, with its charming piano playing and storytelling, has been very popular everywhere. Out of a desire to “do what I can as a pianist and a human being, little by little,” Nakamichi has given numerous hospital and charity concerts. In 2002 and 2006 she performed in the “Campaign against children’s cancer,” sponsored by Mainichi Shimbun. She is also committed to outreach programs which visit schools in different areas and carry out a variety of workshops and appreciation classes tailored to the local character and the children’s personalities. Nakamichi collaborates with concert hall presenters from the planning stage in creating delightful concerts. The wonderful humanity that she brings to her wide-ranging projects has won over more and more fans.
Nakamichi has an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music Japan International and has released many CDs, including an album which set a record as the top-selling classical music recording to date. In another major recording project following her Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Nakamichi released Complete Mozart Sonatas in September 2013. The CDs were selected as specially recommended recordings in the November 2013 issue of “Record Arts,” and praised as “the definitive recordings of Mozart performed on the contemporary piano.” Her most recent release, Schumann Fantaisie, is a collection of Schumann pieces which marks the 30th anniversary of her debut.
As a writer, Nakamichi has published a number of books including “Out of the Stage Lights” (Ongaku no Tomo). She has also edited books such as “Learning about Famous Pianos and Piano Music through CDs,” “The Chopin Keyboard Mysteries,” and “Beethoven Keyboard Universe” (Natsume). She appears frequently on TV and radio, and contributes to newspapers and magazines. By conveying the joy of music in rich and varied ways, she has gained a large following among the public.
In her 30th anniversary season 2016/17, Nakamichi performed anniversary concerts across the country including at Suntory Hall and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, and toured nationwide with the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ken-ichiro Kobayashi, as well as with the Gewandhaus Quartett. From the autumn of 2017, she performed the concerts “BS Fuji presents Ikuyo Nakamichi’s 30th Anniversary Piano Solo Concerts Romantic Piano” throughout Japan. Linked to the concerts, a special anniversary TV program was broadcast on BS Fuji from September 2017. She has also released the CDs Chopin Waltzes, Love Chopin and Schumann Fantaisie, and the DVD Chopin Live at Suntory Hall.
For over ten years Nakamichi has based her performance activity around concerts at Suntory Hall. She plans to hold two new concert series each spring and autumn for a ten-year period starting in 2018. In spring, she carried out a series revolving around the sonatas of Beethoven, the composer whose work she has been the most closely engaged with throughout her career. Looking towards 2027, the which will be the 40th anniversary of her debut as well as the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death, she will revisit the vast world of Beethoven along with its connections to composers who came before and after. In autumn, in the intimate space of the recital hall, she will perform a concert series exploring the burnished tones of the piano. In keeping with different themes, she plans to perform works characterized by subtle detail and introspection.
A socially conscious musician, Nakamichi serves as the Music Director and Supervisor of a forum held cooperatively with concert halls across the country, “The future that music opens”; and in March 2018 she presented the “1st Ikuyo Nakamichi Piano Festival” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre.
Since 2003, with the aim of activating regional communities and expanding musical culture, Nakamichi has been working in her roles as special instructor at Osaka College of Music and director of the Japan Foundation for Regional Art-Activities. Since 2012 she has also been active as a professor at Toho Gakuen School of Music(Toho Gakuen College Music Department.