Sapporo Symphony Orchestra
Tadaaki Otaka, Music Director
Ken Takaseki, Permanent Conductor
The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra was originally founded on July 1, 1961, as the Sapporo Citizen Symphony Orchestra and was incorporated and renamed the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra in the following year. Hokkaido’s only professional orchestra has since been affectionately known as “Sakkyo” to the more than 5.6 million residents of Hokkaido.
Masao Araya (1914-1996) served as the orchestra’s first Principal Conductor from 1961 to 1968, during which time he laid the foundation of the orchestra’s success. The orchestra made its debut at the first Subscription Concert held under Araya’s conductorship on September 6, 1961. To honour Araya for his outstanding contribution, Sakkyo conferred the title of “Honorary Founding Conductor” on him in 1997. Serving as the second Principal Conductor between 1969 and 1975 and polishing Sakkyo’s performances was the Austrian conductor Peter Schwarz (1925-1998). Schwarz made the orchestra’s first recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) among other works, and the first overseas concerts in the U.S. and Germany that he led during his tenure were also highly commended. Hiroyuki Iwaki (1932- 2006) served as Permanent Conductor from 1975, Music Director and Permanent Conductor from 1978 and Conductor Laureate from 1988 until he passed away in 2006. During his tenure, Iwaki dedicated himself to popularizing the works of Toru Takemitsu and other Japanese composers. With Iwaki, the orchestra created a sensation with its recording of Toru Takemitsu’s soundtrack for Akira Kurosawa’s film “Ran,” which established Sakkyo as one of Japan’s leading orchestras. Kazuyoshi Akiyama assumed the post of Music Advisor/Principal Conductor from 1988 to 1998 and built an impressively extensive repertoire. Starting in 1989, he inaugurated the regular concert “Hokuren Classic Special” in Tokyo, which has been highly acclaimed every year since. The concert “Toyota Classics,” held in six Southeast Asian cities under the conductorship of Shunsaku Tsutsumi in 1992 and Kazuyoshi Akiyama in 1994, also gained great popularity.
The current Music Director, Tadaaki Otaka, served as Permanent Conductor from 1981 to 1986 and was appointed Music Advisor/Principal Conductor in 1998. He has been in the position of the second Music Director since 2004. Permanent Conductor Ken Takaseki was designated Associate Conductor from 1988 to 1992 and was inaugurated as Permanent Conductor in 2003. Based in the Sapporo Concert Hall “Kitara”, which boasts some of the best acoustics in the world, the orchestra, distinguished by its clear sound and dynamic powers of expression, has been increasingly praised as it engenders a charm that befits the vast land of Hokkaido. The concerts in the U.K in 2001 and South Korea in 2005 under Otaka’s conductorship were showered with glowing accolades. The orchestra began performing two subscription concerts for each program in 2005 and has since increased the audience numbers by over 10,000 people, resulting in a succession of sold-out concerts. With Otaka at the helm, the orchestra recorded Dvorák’s Symphony No.8 and No.9 (From the New World) and Elgar’s Symphony No.3 and March No. 6 (Pomp and Circumstance) for release on CD in November 2007. Aspiring to become an orchestra loved by an increasing number of Hokkaido residents, including those in Sapporo, Sakkyo, the Hokkaido-based professional orchestra, has been engaged in ever-active performance with its sights set on listeners across the world.
In recognition of his outstanding services to music in the UK, Tadaaki Otaka received an honorary CBE and is also holder of the Suntory Medal, the highest musical award in his native Japan. He studied conducting at the Toho Gakuen School of Music as well as in Vienna and was for twenty years Permanent Conductor of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1987 he was made Music Director of BBC National Orchestra of Wales before becoming their Conductor Laureate in 1996, and has toured extensively in Europe, Japan and the USA. Musical Director of the Sapporo Symphony, he also founded Kioi Sinfonietta Tokyo in 1995 and has toured with both ensembles in Europe. His extensive guest conducting has included many visits to Australia, the Far East, Europe and North America, with the orchestras of such cities as Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Oregon, Lille, Strasbourg, Bamberg, Helsinki, Oslo, The Hague and Rotterdam. He has also conducted many UK orchestras including London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Ulster Orchestra and the Orchestra of Opera North. In recent seasons he has made returns to London Philharmonic, London Symphony (with whom he performed Brahms’ Requiem in the City of London Festival), Bournemouth Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, and BBC NOW. Plans for the current season and beyond include returns to City of Birmingham Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, West Australian Symphony and Bournemouth Symphony as well as his regular BBC NOW and Japanese commitments. His discography includes the complete Rachmaninov Symphonies and piano concertos, a Glazunov symphony cycle, Britten’s Peter Grimes and works by Takemitsu, Gubaidulina, Firsova and Denisov.