Special Session 2 – My 40 years with Goddess of Music

Hi, IF visitors. Today’s special guest is Mr. Shoji Sato, who works at KAJIMOTO, a concert management company in Japan. His work is taking the responsibility of artist management. He has worked for many legendary pianists including Rudolf Serkin, Shura Cherkassky, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Friedrich Gulda, Alfred Brendel, as well as great maestros, such as Andreas Segovia, Yehudi Menuhin, Georg Solti, Sergiu Celibidache, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Pierre Boulez! (How many artists did you know??)

Among them, he has long term collaborations with the two great pianists ie; Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini.

With Ms Argerich, he supported to create concerts based on our own original concept, which include trio concerts and recording by Gidon Kremer and Mischa Maisky (1998), solo recitals titled “A tribute to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli” (2000) which was planned with Maurizio Pollini, and “In joyful remembrance of Friedrich Gulda” concerts on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of Friedrich Gulda’s death (January 2005).

This time he’s going to talk about Ms Argerich and their activities. Enjoy reading his article and ask anything to him!

My 40 years with Goddess of Music         

I have been working for a pianist Martha Argerich as her manager since 1976. Martha Argerich is called as one of the greatest pianists of this century. While working for her for many years, I am convinced to call her Goddess of Music.

Now I would like to talk about how we developed our ideas and how we will go further in three chapters.

1)  Music Against Crime & Outreach

Since 1998 I have been watching horrible violence at school in Japan. The students stabbed their classmates and teachers at school, and those students have never involved with the crimes before, and they were more or less from the rich and educated family and good at academic records.

When we met at Martha’s house in Europe in 1998, we started to discuss about how to solve this serious problem, and how music can contribute to its solution. We believe the love music holds within, will weaken the young people’s desire to harm others. Under the motto of “Music Against Crime” we planned to do something in her next visit to Japan.

During her visits between 2000 and 2005, she used her free days for visiting an elementary school and child support facility, and played music together with the kids. This kind of visit is called outreach, and we learned many other artists had been doing the similar activities. The artists who visit schools are enthusiastically welcomed by the kids and their parents, and the artists receive many positive letters with gratitude from them.

marthas-visit-elementary-school-2002_s(by Y.Koseki)

Through such outreach experience, we have realized that distinguished artists who have little time for outreach will not be able to come back to the kids, although they want the artists to be back to their schools as often as possible. Outreach cannot build the equal relationship between the artists and the kids. This is the conclusion we reached during the six years of outreach experience.

2) Jose Antonio Abreu – El Sistema & Play Together

Then we came to know Dr. Abreu’s music education called “El Sistema”.

We watched CBS TV 60 minutes documentary program, and we found that the teachers at El Sistema were always with the kids and create the ideal relationship, and this is something outreach can never accomplish. The kids are given instruments and teachers for free, and they can receive music education almost every day for more than 4 hours. Once they can create sound, they are invited to join the orchestra and play together in the music training center (nucleo). This system will make many changes in the kids and their family and their society in positive ways. Dr. Abreu, founder of El Sistema, says that El Sistema is not a music project , but a social project.

Martha invited Dr. Abreu and his orchestra (Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel) to her music festival in Buenos Aires in September 2005 and played together. Martha was so happy to play music with the young musicians from Venezuela.

In October Martha Argerich was invited to Warsaw as a jury member of Chopin Competition, but she declined this invitation because she was awarded Praemium Imperiale and she came to Tokyo for the ceremony.

After the ceremony, she spoke about El Sistema very passionately at the press conference. Martha spoke about Dr. Abreu, Gustavo Dudamel and Simo Bolivar Youth Orchestra, and she mentioned about Edicson Ruiz who became contrabass player at Berlin Philharmonic with a strong support from his mother who was a hard working taxi driver. I was expecting some journalists there would have asked questions about El Sistema, but nobody asked this question. Somehow Martha’s enthusiasm about El Sistema was ignored. I remember one question from a journalist: “Is there any difference of the interpretation of Chopin’s music by the pianists nowadays and you?”

Martha encouraged me to visit Venezuela as soon as possible and watch the reality of El Sistema. She said “if I receive another offer to play with Dudamel and Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, I will accept it, even cancelling any other offers.”

My first visit to Venezuela happened in December 2005, and I met Dr. Abreu and discussed about how to introduce El Sistema to Japan. Dr. Abreu and I agreed with the idea of bringing Dudamel and Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra to Japan.

This project took place in December 2008, and Martha’s dream came true in 2008 first at Salzburg Festival in August and then Tokyo and Hiroshima in December.


Dr. Abreu and Mr. Sato

I am happy to learn that the concept of El Sistema has been introduced to many countries including Japan with their own styles.

3) Hiroshima- Music for Peace & No to Violence

Martha visited Hiroshima five times in the past. In each time she stayed only one day and left the town the next day. So far she played solo recitals and concerts with visiting orchestras including a performance with Dudamel and Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in 2008, but she never played with a local orchestra in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (HSO) was planning a pair of concerts in Hiroshima and Tokyo commemorating the 70th anniversary year of A-bomb attack in August 2015.

The orchestra and its music director Akiyama was looking for a soloist to symbolize HSO’s motto “Music for Peace” for these anniversary concerts.

I instinctively thought of Martha. HSO was very enthusiastic about my proposal, and I promised to do my best to convince her to visit Hiroshima. It took me more than 6 months to get YES answer from Martha, because she had received many invitations in Argentina and Europe around Hiroshima period. Martha decided to cancel the invitations from prestigious summer festivals in Salzburg, Lucerne, Berlin and London. Daniel Barenboim and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra who were supposed to tour with her, kindly agreed with Martha’s decision to play in Hiroshima.

Martha‘s daughter Annie gave me the idea of reading the poem for the victim of A-bomb attack and holocaust in the concerts. Annie Dutoit and Keiichiro Hirano participated in those concerts for reading in English and Japanese languages.  The anniversary concert with the program of Beethoven and Hindemith was welcomed by the attendance of our Emperor and Empress in Tokyo, and NHK TV broadcasted the concert all over Japan. The concert in Hiroshima was recorded for High Resolution Audio distribution. This time Martha stayed in Hiroshima for 7 days and on 6th August she woke up very early and attended Peace Memorial Ceremony which started at 8 am.

Martha told me that as soon as the first rehearsal started she fell in love with this orchestra’s vitality and tenderness.


As a result of the happy collaboration, Martha has received the title of Peace and Music Ambassador of Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra. HSO has appointed me as secretary to Peace and Music Ambassador.

Martha would like to support HSO’s motto of “Music for Peace” and she wishes to broaden this motto to the world. As Martha herself did, she thinks musicians from the world should join HSO and make music together.

One of the ideas to make it happen is to invite regularly a few numbers of musicians in the first class orchestras from many countries who can share “Music for Peace” and join HSO’s subscription concerts etc. and play together. Then we can share a strong hope of forming Hiroshima International Peace Orchestra (HIPO) in summer of 2019 and 2020. HIPO will play concerts in Hiroshima and other places.

Martha also will support recommending the musicians from the orchestras in the world which she played with in the past. If we achieve this work-in-progress project, Music for Peace will sound as No to any type of Violence.









(by Y. Koseki)






14 thoughts on “Special Session 2 – My 40 years with Goddess of Music

  1. Great article, amazing people, awesome initiatives… As a Miho said under photo from birthday of Maestro Abreu “Nowadays all political systems seem not going well” so it’s very nice to read that there are such people of good will which wants to do good.
    It reminds me one of Polish song from the 60 “Strange is this world”

    “But there are more people of good will
    and I do strongly believe in the fact
    that this world
    won’t never die due to them.
    No! No! No!
    The time has come,
    it’s high time
    to destroy the hatred within.”

    Very touching for me is this part of article where is written that music can makes there is love: “We believe the love music holds within, will weaken the young people’s desire to harm others” I also strongly belive in it….


  2. Marvelous, especially as for devotion to accomplish something to ameliorate social situations! Also Argerich gladly gives her outstanding talent for it. And of course Dr. Abreu, his efforts are needless to say. How can ideal be transformed into reality? What should I do to get better circumstances? But I wonder if I can do something nice without asking myself that it could be hypocritical or only self-satisfaction. Then again I think that anyway many things on the earth seem to get worse, so we have to do something now, and if each person can be better the world will be better.


    • Miho we missed you 🙂 … Goodness is so powerful and bright like the Sun that’s why if only few people “true leaders” carry the torch , trust , believe in and work on their ideas to make them reality then they will enlighten the lives of many like what Dr. Abreu accomplished and that will stand as a lighthouse for generations to come


  3. Great article… thank you Mr. Sato for introducing such a great personality to us… one may know Martha Argerich work but she becomes closest to the heart when you know such information … also I am also a big fan of Mr. Dudamel and got to know about El Sistema project by following his news .. this project I found to be very “out of the box” …

    one of the great people that I would like to have them in “my orchestra” if I could is Hilary Hahn …
    may peace be with all our nations 🙂


  4. I was greatly impressed by this article. I am mainly interested in physical activities, such as sports and training, though I am an English teacher. However, since I learned about El Sistema in the textbook, UNICORN 1, published by Bun-eido, I have been interested in their activities. In addition, thanks to this article, I have got interested in Martha Argerich! I hope from the bottom of my heart that all hatred in the world will cease to exist.


    • Thank you for your positive comments.
      I have started to investigate the candidate musicians who can join Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra.
      For me the visit of the musicians who share music for peace is so important as President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.
      Playing together for peace will create something unpredictable result.


      • Thank you for your prompt reply!
        Yes. As you say, musicians are more likely to contribute to the healing of souls, both alive and dead, in Hiroshima than the US president.


  5. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story, Mr. Sato. Last year he invited you to Mis Argerich and HSO concert and it was the first time for me to listen to her performance. Her fingers made “Miracle” beautiful tunes. I also felt Mr Sato’s trust and belief in his Goddess of Music during her performance. 😉 I believe IF visitors will cooperate with your “Music for Peace” project. Thank you again.


  6. We imagine that we live by our own power, thereby getting ourselves caught up in self-centered thinking. We should pay more attention to helping others and dedicate ourselves to giving aids to those who need them. We should work hard to bring peace to the world and to the minds of the people around the world.That’s because all of us throughout the world are brothers and sisters. There should be no one called an outsider. Don’t you think so?


    • Takashi, thank you for your comment(Are you still busy?). I really agree with you. And I also believe music is the key to bring peace to the world. BTW, everyone, Mr. Sato is going to Poland and Germany from tomorrow to 11th for his dream! Please say hello to him, Slawek!! (Your mission is finding Mr. Sato)


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