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Anna Hashimoto - Voyage of a Star
John Robert Brown

Her mother is a pianist; her father is a violinist, Masayuki Kino. "He's the leader of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra," says Anna Hashimoto. "For this he flies around the world. I see him sometimes here in London. But the first time I ever played with him was last May, when I went to Japan to do a concerto with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. My father was the leader, I was the soloist, a really strange experience."

Born in Japan, Anna Hashimoto has lived in the UK since she was six months old. In 2008, Hashimoto visited Japan to give a concerto performance with the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Seikyo Kim. The young clarinettist also gave two recitals in Tokyo, one in the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Hall and one in the Kioi Hall. For the Kioi New Artists Series, Hashimoto commissioned a work from the Japanese composer Rikuya Terashima. "One piece of his I like has Japanese traditional dance ideas going back to the Noh plays," she says. The new piece is called Voyage of a Star.   

Clarinettist Anna Hashimoto is twenty years old, a third-year undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). For four years before she entered the RAM, Hashimoto attended the Purcell School, which she found wonderful. "The atmosphere was so friendly. I felt that I was surrounded by like-minded people. I could discuss all sorts of things without being thought of as a strange being."

During her stint with the National Youth Orchestra Hashimoto had seen leaflets offering an opportunity to apply for a masterclass with Michael Collins. She applied, and was given a master class along with a handful of students, in Dorchester-on-Thames. "I was randomly chosen for that. I was lucky," she says. Hashimoto wrote Collins a thank-you card. To her surprise, Collins asked her if she would like to come for a private lesson. Naturally she did. She was then offered the opportunity to attend for every week. "I felt so inspired," she says. "Every lesson was incredible."

Anna is a Buddhist. "For me, the main thing about being a Buddhist and being a musician is that it's all about how to create harmony in your surroundings, It's not about impressiveness, or flashiness. I would much more prefer the listeners to come out feeling really happy." Among her other unusual interests is a taste for certain types of jazz. Anna Hashimoto is a fan of trumpeter Chet Baker. And as far as jazz clarinet goes, she owns a lot of Benny Goodman recordings.

Asked why she chose to attend music college, as opposed to university, she says: "I don't want to be rude towards universities but for me, music is about performance. There's this idea that if you go to music college, all you do is play. But actually, we have fantastic professors, and really great lecturers.  If I went to a university, I don't think the balance would be right between performance and academic study. Personally, I wouldn't have coped with that." Her attitude to performance nerves is, she admits, 'weird'. "Often I get nervous before small-scale concerts, for instance in performance class at the RAM," she says. "Somehow, those make me nervous, whereas when I'm on stage for a concerto, 99.9% of the time I'm not nervous. I have huge excitement, when I go hyperactive beforehand, when I want to run onstage. In Japan I'm told: 'Walk slower on stage. You don't look very ladylike.' It's much more enjoyable when I have a big audience, whereas when the audience is small, and they are looking at scores, it makes me anxious. I hope it stays like this, and doesn't change. I always try to remember to eat a banana. It does give energy, but it's also a mental thing, as in: 'I've eaten a banana; it's okay now'."

Does this means that she has superstitions? "I have a favourite colour," she says. "It's green." She points to her apple-green coat and matching wallet. She has evolved a clarinet routine on the day of the concert, which includes playing the first study in Paul Jeanjean's Vade-Mecum du Clarinettiste. "It gets every finger moving," she says. "I find when I do that I feel so much more settled. It's a sort of ritual that I do. Also, I try to sleep between the rehearsal and the concert. I can sleep anywhere. The other day, when I was playing the Mozart in St John's Smith Square, the rehearsal was at 4.30. The backstage rooms at St John's Smith Square aren't that great. There were two chairs. I put them together, curled up on them, and slept between 5.30 and 6.30. I can just sleep! I'm lucky. I'm the same with jetlag. When I went to New York, I could just sleep."

"In a day I'll cover everything. Usually, at the beginning it's long notes, lots of tonguing, a few scales, and some studies. On average I do about an hour of that sort of stuff. The rest will be new repertoire, and learning things."        

Anna Hashimoto plays on Peter Eaton clarinets. She has a Peter Eaton basset clarinet.  Her mouthpiece is a Vandoren B40-13.  Her reeds are Vandoren V-12 strength three. "My Eb clarinet is a Buffet. I'm not really going into the bass clarinet, because I'm so small."

Anna Hashimoto's new CD is on the Meridien label.

First published in Clasical Music magazine, used by kind permission..

Anna Hashimoto won the first prize at the First International Clarinet Competition in Kortrijk, Belgium, in November 2010. The candidates had to prepare three hours of music including three concertos. Hashimoto is the first ever Asian clarinettist to win a major clarinet competition. Karl Leister and Stanley Drucker were amongst the panel of 14 Jury members. 


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