Mari Kodama is consistently praised for her virtuosity in a wide range of repertoire, including orchestral, chamber and solo works by composers of all periods. She is also known for her natural musicality, tonal expressiveness with a clear form, and as a benchmark Beethoven interpreter.
In the 2021/22 season, Mari Kodama will once again showcase her diverse talents with various international concert appearances, such as with the Philharmonic Orchestra Bremerhaven under Marc Niemann performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 0 and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra under Krzysztof Urbański performing Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto. Highlights of the season include the concert with the Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg conducted by Kent Nagano with pianists Paul Lewis and Till Fellner in honor of Alfred Brendel, who was the teacher of all the soloists, the world premiere of Rodolphe Bruneau-Boulmier’s new piano concerto Terra Nostra with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Kent Nagano at the Berlin Philharmonie, the performances of Beethoven Project II with the ballet John Neumeier at the Hamburg State Opera, and the Beethoven Festival “a life in a Day” in San Francisco, which she organized, presenting all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas over two days by 10 to 12 soloists.
Beethoven’s piano works form a focal point of Mari Kodama’s recording activities, and her interpretations have become standard-setting. She is one of few female pianists to record the composer’s complete sonatas. Her 2014 boxed set release (Pentatone) of these pieces received critical acclaim. In fall 2019 she released Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 0 WoO 4, which together with his Rondo for piano and orchestra WoO 6 and his “Eroica” Variations for piano solo op. 35 complement the Beethoven CD – Box with all of Beethoven’s piano concertos as well as the Triple Concerto together with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Kent Nagano (Berlin Classics).
Mari Kodama has been working with Pentatone for many years. Her latest CD release on the label is the Duo CD MON AMI, Mon amour – French Repertoire for Cello and Piano with Matt Haimovitz and works by Francis Poulenc, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Darius Milhaudso. In Spring 2020 Pentatone released Kaleidoscope: Beethoven Transcriptions, consisting of Beethoven string quartets transcribed for piano by Saint-Saëns, Mussorgsky and Balakirev, as well as Beethoven’s variations on the finale of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. Previous releases show her broad repertoire, such as the CD with Martinůs Concert for two pianos and orchestra, together with Momo Kodama and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille under Lawrence Foster, released in 2018. In 2016 Mari Kodama published arrangements for two pianos of Tchaikovsky’s popular ballets The Nutcracker (Arr. Anton Arenski – first recording), Sleeping Beauty (Arr. Sergei Rachmaninov) and Swan Lake (Arr. Eduard Leontyevich Langer, Claude Debussy) with Momo Kodama. Mari Kodama’s discography also includes piano concertos by Chopin and Loewe with the Russian National Orchestra (Pentatone) and Prokofiev’s piano concertos No. 1 and 3 as well as his piano sonata No. 7 with the Philharmonia Orchestra (ASV).
Since her New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall in 1995, Mari Kodama has performed with renowned orchestras and conductors in the world’s leading concert halls. She has played with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, SWR Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra or Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. In her native Japan, she has played with the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and the symphony orchestras of Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka, among others. Mari Kodama’s festival appearances include the Verbier Festival, the Festival International de Piano La Roque d’Antheron, the Aldeburgh Festival of Music, Mostly Mozart in New York City, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and Kissinger Sommer.
Through her performing activities, Mari Kodama has brought infrequently heard gems of the piano repertoire to global audiences. She has performed Stenhammer’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Gothenburg and New York and has also collaborated with Viviane Hagner on Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano and Violin, which they performed with both the Jyväskylä Sinfonia and the DSO Berlin. Additionally, in 2013 Mari Kodama premiered Jean-Pascal Beinthus’ Double Piano Concerto together with Momo Kodama and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo. Mari Kodama also performed in the Canada premieres of Jörg Widmann’s Valse Bavaroise and Humoresken, both at the Canadian Orford Festival in summer 2010.
In addition to her performances, Mari Kodama also plays an active role as a music festival artistic director. She co-founded the Forest Hill Musical Days festival, a chamber music festival in San Francisco, with her husband Kent Nagano, and she has also led the chamber music series at the Orford Music Festival. In 2018 she assumed artistic directorship at the festival Tra Luce e Sogno in Postignano, Italy, for which she won artists such as Christian Gerhaher, Matt Haimowitz and Gerold Huber, among others.
The past seasons saw Mari Kodama achieve critical praise for her worldwide performances. Highlights included Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the SWR Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano in Stuttgart and Freiburg; duo concerts with Momo Kodama in Paris, Japan, Hungary and Germany with works by Mozart, Adams, Eötvös, Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Bizet and Tchaikovsky; as well as a recital with Vadim Repin at Montreal’s Viree Classique Festival.
Mari Kodama was born in Osaka and raised in Germany and Paris. At the Conservatoire National in Paris, she studied piano with Germaine Mounier and chamber music with Genevieve Joy-Dutilleux. She has also worked with Tatiana Nikolaeva and Alfred Brendel. Mari Kodama was appointed as a Steinway Artist.
Photo: Sergio Veranes