Every year in every season Matsumoto plays host to an impressive array of festivals and events. Some are grounded in ancient Japanese traditions. Others are celebrations of food or art or even beer. But only one involves world-class music led by a globally-renowned Japanese conductor: the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, taking place once again this August and September.
The Making of a Legend
Seiji Ozawa was born in 1935 in a Japanese-controlled area of northeast China. As a junior high school student in Tokyo he showed a keen interest in playing the piano, but when he sprained a finger playing rugby his teacher, Hideo Saito, encouraged him to try conducting, piquing his interest by bringing him to a performance of Beethoven’s Piano concerto Number 5. Over the years Saito would become Ozawa’s greatest lifelong influence, with Ozawa going on to achieve extensive international acclaim as a conductor. But it was right here in Matsumoto where Ozawa realized what was perhaps his greatest dream...
The Birth of a Tradition
It was 1984 when Seiji Ozawa brought more than one hundred of his fellow students together for a memorial concert in honor of Hideo Saito, who had passed away ten years prior. This ensemble would become known as the Saito Kinen Orchestra, touring Europe in 1987 and again in 1989, soon gaining accolades as being on par with some of the world’s most-renowned Philharmonics. After a world tour in 1991 the Saito Kinen Orchestra would establish Matsumoto as its home, and in 1992 Ozawa realized his dream by launching the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival. Every year since then the orchestral and opera performances of this festival, under the direct leadership of Ozawa, have attracted worldwide attention.
Composers, Conductors, Orchestras & More
Testament to Seiji Ozawa’s worldwide acclaim, this year’s festival will include performances led by the great film score composer John Williams, whose works include music from various Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones movies. Also featured will be the French conductor Stéphane Denève, who has held music directorships in Scotland, Germany, Belgium and the US while conducting throughout the world – including making his first appearance at the Saito Kinen Festival in 1998.
Beginning with the August 5th welcome concert “Harmony at the Castle”, this year’s festival runs through the beginning of September with chamber music performances, operatic productions, children’s concerts and more. And if you can’t get tickets for the indoor performances there are several outdoor events to check out.
The 2023 Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival will be held from August 19th to September 6th.
Matsumoto has plenty to offer on any day of the year. When there’s a festival going on it’s even better. But there’s only one occasion when world-class music comes to town. And it’s happening soon, at the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival.