Seiji Ozawa Hails His Orchestra, Chorus From Matsumoto After Winning Grammy

Seiji Ozawa hails his orchestra, chorus from Matsumoto after winning GrammyConductor Seiji Ozawa showered praise on his orchestra, singers and children's chorus after he finally snatched a Grammy for conducting the best opera recording.
“I was truly surprised by the honor,” Ozawa said of winning the award for the first time after seven previous nominations.

“My strongest feeling is that we won the award together, and I will be grateful if we can celebrate it together,” said the 80-year-old maestro at a news conference in Kyoto on Feb. 17.

He hailed members of the Saito Kinen Orchestra, SKF Matsumoto Choir as well as local singers and a children’s chorus from Nagano Prefecture, for the performance that won the best opera recording at the 58th Grammy Awards two days earlier in Los Angeles.

The prizewinning recording was "Ravel: L'Enfant et les Sortileges; Sheherazade," which features "L'Enfant et les Sortileges," a French opera composed by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).

The live recording was made in August 2013 at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, an annual music event held in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and since renamed the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival.

It was performed by the Saito Kinen Orchestra accompanied by the SKF Matsumoto Choir, eight amateur singers chosen through auditions and a local children’s chorus. The event marked Ozawa’s full return to the conductor’s podium since he took a one-and-a-half-year break to receive medical treatment.

“I would like to express my gratitude again for Ozawa’s efforts to involve local citizens in a world-class orchestral performance to bring excitement to the festival,” said Eri Habaya, a 56-year-old soprano who participated in the performance.

“It is my fond memory now that I was unable to even feel nervous during the performance because I was trying so hard not to become burdensome for top-rated musicians,” she said.

The award has stirred up renewed interest in the performance in Japan, and Universal Music had received orders for 5,000 CD copies as of mid-Feb. 16. With the stock already depleted, another batch is being produced.

“The performance was an outcome of an innovative effort by Ozawa to produce world-class music with local citizens,” said Masao Nakamura, the 56-year-old president of the Nagano Chorus Association, who trained the amateur vocalists prior to the award-winning performance.

“During the more than 20 years of the festival’s history, citizens in Matsumoto have developed their musical talents and awareness, and this could certainly be a factor behind the performance winning the prestigious prize,” he said.