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Kunito Nishitani returns to Beaverton orchestra to perform as guest soloist

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Japanese visiting violinist Kunito Nishitani warms up prior to rehearsal with the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra.For violinist Kunito Nishitani, flying from his Tokyo home to perform with the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra is an invigorating, inspiring experience in almost every way.

The one possible exception? Getting through the first morning rehearsal with a serious case of trans-Pacific jet lag.

“It was a little bit tricky,” he said of his groggy initial meeting with the local musicians. “I tried to connect with them and make it fun. I made some very small jokes and tried to make them interested in me.”

Based on the powerful dynamics the virtuoso exchanged with the orchestra during Monday night’s rehearsal session at Village Baptist Church, there was no chance of anyone losing interest in Nishitani. The 30-year-old Tokyo native will perform Aram Khachaturian’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” with the Beaverton orchestra on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the church’s main auditorium at 330 S.W. Murray Blvd.

The orchestra’s fall concert also will include performances of Samuel Jones’ “Listen Now, My Children” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky “Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Opus 64.”

A Portland State University graduate, Nishitani last performed with the orchestra in 2011. He returned to Beaverton at the behest of Travis Hatton, the orchestra’s musical director and conductor.

“He’s just very easy to work with,” Hatton said. “He has a pretty long history with the orchestra going back to his time as a student at PSU. He’s such a great soloist. We thought, ‘Why don’t we bring him over?’”

Nishitani, who began playing violin at age 5, has family ties to the Beaverton orchestra through Pamela Jacobsen, a first-chair violinist with the Beaverton Chamber Symphony, as the local orchestra was formerly called. Nishitani’s mother became friends with her through an exchange program, and Jacobsen arranged lessons for Nishitani with Catherine Noll, a member of the Oregon Symphony.

Hatton considers the Beaverton orchestra fortunate that Nishitani’s ties to the Portland area continue to be advantageous.

“Very few people would come from Japan to join our orchestra,” he said. “It was a fantastic thing for him to do.”

Nishitani admits it’s a dream of his to perform the Khachaturian piece, a work he chose himself, with a full orchestra.

“It’s very hard and tricky, not simple like Beethoven or Mozart,” he said. “It’s really tricky for a community orchestra. Fortunately, they have a very good conductor. The community orchestra has so improved in the last few years. I thought maybe it’s time to play this piece.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Japanese visiting violinist Kunito Nishitani rehearses a challenging piece he selected with the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra.

Nishitani, who after PSU earned his master’s degree from New York University, concedes his playing style has evolved from his days as a college student.

“When I was 19, I just played emotionally,” he says. “But gradually, I learned you should take care of other stuff, such as intonation, expression — more dynamic stuff. My music style has changed a lot.”

After teaching and performing as a soloist at numerous U.S. venues, Nishitani returned to Tokyo in 2010. He teaches at the Tokyo American Club, Ikebukuro Community College and the Kunito International Violin & Viola School as a faculty member. Since returning home, he’s instructed 60 private students.

As a conductor, Nishitani has worked with the Shakuji International Orchestra and youth orchestra as well as the orchestra of the Summer Music Festival at Ikebukuro Community College.

If he could pull it off, Nishitani would like to set up musical exchanges between ensembles in Japan and the U.S. to provide young musicians the same cross-cultural opportunities of which he was able to partake.

“In my dreams, we could take an orchestra to Beaverton, or maybe the Beaverton orchestra can come to Tokyo,” he said.

Hatton, meanwhile, looks forward to this weekend’s collaborative performances. Particularly with Nishitani soloing, the piece, he warns, is not the kind that allows a casual listener to drift off during softer passages.

“This kind of concert doesn’t ebb and flow,” he said. “This one extended crescendo. Once you think you’ve had a lot, you’re going to get a lot more.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Beaverton Symphony Orchestra rehearses with visiting Japanese violinist Kunito Nishitani.

Taking notes

What: The Beaverton Symphony Orchestra’s Fall Concert featuring guest violinist Kunito Nishitani on Aram Khachaturian’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra”

Where: Village Baptist Church, 330 S.W. Murray Blvd.

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets: Available at the door: Adult, $10; students and seniors, $5; family, $20.


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