Amazing Grace from the Land of the Rising Sun
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Picture by Morris Simon
Washington, DC: Before the gifted violinist Nanae Iwata moved the first string and the talented pianist Mariko Furukawa stroked the piano keys at the Embassy Series Concert, His Excellency Kenichiro SASAE, the Japanese Ambassador set the stage for what turned out to be a show of amazing grace from the land of the rising sun. To put things in perspective, he reflected on the significant events that occurred in history on November 14th.
Among the notable events he cited from history were the crowning of Charles VI at age 12 in 1380, the publication of Moby Dick by Herman Melville in 1851 and the presentation of the "theory of relativity" by Albert Einstein in 1908. But it also so happened that on November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane), a 25- year journalist Nellie Bly set out on a journey around the world to be the record of fictional Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's "Around the world in Eighty Days." And, in 1960, Singer Ray Charles “Georgia on my Mind” hit the #1 on the charts.
Through their stunning performance, Nanae Iwata and Mariko Furukawa seemed to have the audience’s pleasure on their minds but an acute sense of history and the special place Japan occupies in international affairs.
According to the New York Concert Review, Nanae Iwata is gifted with “expansive lyricism” and the New York Times has recognized her“lovely playing” which was clearly evident from the sparkle in her eyes as she delivered exceptional music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Toru Takemitsu and Cesar Franck. Music critics have noted her performance as“riveting” and “exquisitely done.” Aided by Mariko Furukawa, she charmed the audience just like her other performances in Austria, Cuba, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the US.
Mariko Furukawa, born in 1982, is another remarkable Japanese artist who began her studies at the age of five. While studying in Japan, she won her First prize twice at the Piano Teachers National Association Competition (PTNA) - both at the age of twelve and sixteen. With a long list of international recognitions and performances in many concert halls around the world, Mariko Furukawa was the perfect partner for making this a memorable evening.
Like the well-tuned piano and the violin, the Japanese Embassy staff worked like an orchestra laying out the big red carpet and the welcome mat for the audience consisting of Washington’s social elite. The elegant ambassadorial residence with its magnificent pieces of art on display along with a sumptuous buffet arranged so beautifully made this evening talk of the town.