Akiko's Piano - Piano Concerto No.4

This special piano concerto will be written for the pianist Martha Argerich. Then why it is called “Akiko’s Piano”? Who is Akiko?

In Hiroshima, there is a piano which survived the atomic bomb, the smashed glass window from the blast is still stuck to the piano’s body.
This piano belonged to a 19 year old girl, Akiko.

Akiko was born in LA to Japanese parents. There was a strong friendship, especially in LA, between the Americans and Japanese people before the Second World War.
Akiko got the piano when she was still in America, this piano is also American, Baldwin, made in Cincinnati.

When Akiko was 7, she and her parents moved to Japan, to live in Hiroshima.

She kept practicing the piano, having lessons, and when she was 19 year old, while she was working as a mobilized student, the atomic bomb was dropped.

She walked and swam as the bridge had been destroyed, to her home where her parents were that day. Then, the next day, she died in her parents’ arms. Her parents cremated their daughter’s body under a big persimmon tree which still exists today. Her last words were “Mom, I want to have a red tomato.”

Though naturally this concerto will have “music for peace” as its main message, as a composer I like to concentrate the personal point of view. This microscopic view to tell the universal subject, is the way to go, I feel, in my compositions : the view of Akiko's, ordinary 19 year old girl who didn’t have any power over politics (and she was born in US, which means she is also an American) At the time of her death, she didn’t know what had happened, or what killed her (radiation poisoning, as she didn’t die from the initial blast).

There must be similar stories to that of this 19 year old girl in every war in history and in every country in the world. Every war will have had an “Akiko”.

I am using two pianos in this concerto, one is the main grand piano, then, the cadenza part of this concerto, perhaps at the end of the concerto, Akiko’s Piano, the piano that survived the atomic bomb will be used, played by the soloist.

To express such an universal theme of “music for peace”, the piece should portray that most personal, smallest point of view. I think that is the most powerful way, and only music can achieve this.

Dai Fujikura (edited by Alison Phillips)