Japanese pianist distills serenity of pop

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Japanese pianist distills serenity of pop

Japanese artists have their work cut out when they try to become popular in Korea, but an exception can be found in Yuhki Kuramoto, a 51-year-old pianist who will be performing three concerts on the peninsula next week.

The seven albums Kuramoto has released in Korea and the two concerts he's played here have all been met with enthusiasm. In fact, his shows are so popular that getting tickets to them is a daunting task. Tickets remain for only one of next week's shows, Daejeon on Monday. The other two, Busan on Wednesday and Seoul on Thursday, sold out a good while ago.

Kuramoto grew up not only as a gifted pianist but also a master of applied science. In his 20s he doffed the lab coat and began focusing on the ivories. He's quite happy he made that choice, he told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition in a recent e-mail interview.

By nature, Kuramoto is self-effacing, and his communication is marked by extreme honorifics and polite expressions. Such modesty can be seen as the fountainhead of his music; he is a master of temperate and tranquil piano pieces. Kim Jin-mook, a music critic, says Kuramoto is adept at presenting lucid arrangements of simple notes, which come across as concise and serene.

Indeed, Kuramoto's style evokes images of a classic Oriental painting of a lonely but graceful orchid, rather than anything spectacular or lively. "I want to concentrate on creating music that relaxes my listeners," he said. "Worthwhile and relaxing -- these are my themes."

The pianist built up his style steadily, ever since he first set fingers on the instrument in May, 1958. "The fine timbre and wide range of the instrument just overwhelmed me," he recalled. He started out as a classical pianist, and was especially talented in interpreting Rachmaninov and Grieg. But at 18, he shelved his technical training and focused on enlarging his territory to pop. "I don't see clear boundaries between classic and pop," he said, "and I just happened to start overlapping the two." In 1986, he recorded his debut album, "Lake Misty Blue," and has been a pop pianist ever since.

In the liner notes of his latest studio album, "Time for Journey," Kuramoto printed photographs he took of his travels, which were connected to the songs. "I get most of my inspiration by traveling around the world," he said.

Kuramoto's sound has a broad appeal, and has been used for movie and soap opera sound tracks and in-flight music. "My clients often ask me to work under one principle -- make it sound like Kuramoto," he said.

In his concerts next week, he'll sound like Kuramoto with an orchestra behind him, which he arranged. He says that this will present him with more possibilities. "The most important thing you need as a creative artist is to remain imaginative," he said.

by Chun Su-jin

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