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HONJOH Hidejiro


HONJOH Hidejiro

at Wigmore Hall, London

“Evocative, mesmerising and surprisingly emotional”

Wigmore Hall is a glorious oasis within the hustle of central London. Their year-round programme of classical music from all over the world inspires just from reading the listings!

Today, courtesy of the Avex Recital Series 2019, there was a performance from HONJOH Hidejiro, playing the traditional shamisen.


The shamisen is a three-stringed instrument, similar in shape to a conventional guitar or banjo or, as one of the pieces demonstrated, a sitar. Yet, the tones are - to this Western ear - so very ‘Japanese’. Evocative, mesmerising and surprisingly emotional.

My previous Japanese music experience is perhaps best explained in the John Williams soundtrack to the film Memoirs Of A Geisha - with its shakuhachi and koto solos (that’s like a traditional Japanese flute and a steel guitar, respectively).


HONJOH presented some world premières within his set of eight pieces of contemporary music - my breath taken away by Red, composed by Marios Joannou Elia. HONJOH describes it thus: “the overall impression resembling the falling of a maple leaf to the ground.” Brilliant.

The 60-minute concert comprised a programme of music by a range of composers: Urata, Takahashi, Sakamoto, Elia, Iyer and Fujikura. All creating music specifically for the shamisen, some in conjunction with HONJOH.

[HONJOH - Ⓒ Yo Hirai]

HONJOH plucks the strings with his fingers or with the aid of a bachi - commonly mistaken for a putty knife or grouting stick (this is no joke!). It looks the same, but helps to create the unique sound of the shamisen: its sawari.

Not just a musical experience - an educational event as well!

The Avex Recital Series is over for this year, but events for 2020 are planned for May 23rd, June 27th, November 28th and December 19th. Visit for more details.

Photographs courtesy of Yo Hirai and RESOBOX

Twitter: @AvexRecitals @wigmore_hall

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