Why this CD was created


Japan had been closed off the rest of the world for more than 200 years. After the opening in the 19th century, music education had become a compulsory class at school only about 130 years ago. However, today, Japanese musicians are working all over the Western world – even in top positions, like Seiji Ozawa. Thinking about this, I am really impressed.

The first Japanese music schoolbook which was used at elementary school (1881), for instance, included the German folk song “Haenschen klein” (little Hans) – with Japanese lyrics, of course. This was the beginning of the development of Western music in Japan. From then on, Western music spread throughout Japan and gained immensely in popularity. German folk songs, for example, are a natural part of the repertoire of Western music in Japan, whereas in Germany, this tradition is hardly kept up any more. This is why I thought about realizing this CD. While working on this CD, I felt extraordinarily comfortable, and while recording it, I was really happy because I have already known all of these songs very well since my youth.


In 1823, even before the opening of Japan, Philipp Franz von Siebold arrived at the Dutch trading station in Nagasaki from Germany to work as a doctor. Together with another Chinese one, this Dutch trading station was Japan’s only connection to the rest of the world. (Since actually, only Dutch people were allowed there, Siebold was called a “mountain Dutch” for official reasons because he could not speak Dutch.) There, he could, for the first time, teach many Japanese to become doctors of Western medicine – a fact that is well-known in Japan. However, almost nobody is aware of the fact that he also brought a piano to Japan. Siebold was also a very musical person. Now, I speculate that, sometimes, maybe out of homesickness, he might have sung German folk songs in Nagasaki. Perhaps, his students might have heard them and, afterwards, secretely passed them on to their own students (who again passed them on to their students).

With these thoughts in mind, I learned more about the time before and after Japan’s opening. My great-grandfather, who was living in the 19th century, happened to be medical student in this special period of Japanese history. He actively supported Japan’s political opening and used all his private fortune to further this goal. Maybe, he also sang German folk songs back then? I imagined this, while I was writing this modest text. Sometimes, I could even hear my great-grandfather’s voice while writing. Because of this, writing this text was a great pleasure for me, although usually, writing is not one of my strengths. I hope that listening to this CD will also be a pleasure!