Yeoman Interview – Yuki Ito

Multi-award winning Yeoman Yuki Ito first came to international prominence when he won 1st prize at the coveted International Johannes Brahms Competition and the prestigious Windsor Festival International String Competition at age 21, subsequently making his début with the Philharmonia Orchestra. He regularly performs at renowned venues and international music festivals, and has made several premières of works dedicated to him. Described by music journalists as “masterfully assured” (Strad) and possessing “notable maturity and taste” (American Record Guide), his 2013 début album Rachmaninov Complete Cello Works with Sofya Gulyak has achieved great acclaim in Europe, the US and Asia, and was chosen as “Recommended Disc” by Strad in the UK and Record Geijutsu in Japan. Yuki is also the founder and artistic director of the In Tune Orchestra (ITO).

What is your instrument?
I play the cello and sometimes appear on the podium too as conductor!

What was your music education?
I was first given a violin at age five, and my immediate instinct was to sit and play it. My father then gave me a cello the year after and that was the start of my career as a cellist. I then moved to London at 15 possessing absolutely no knowledge of the English language, and joined the Purcell School, where I was a boarder and learnt an enormous number of musically-related things and life skills. I went on to study at the Royal College of Music, where I am currently completing my Artist Diploma course.

What musicians have inspired you the most, and why?
The first significant and strong inspiration I had was Seiji Ozawa’s Dvorak Symphony No.9. Later on, I encountered David Geringas’ Bach Solo Cello Suites which, among my father’s huge CD collection, stood out as extraordinary to a 12-year-old boy.

When did you realise you wanted to be a professional cellist?
The very first time I felt right playing the cello was when I was seven and my beloved bird died. I had never willingly opened the cello case to practice before, but on that occasion I was more than certain that playing the cello was the best thing I could do for the bird… Eight years later, a few days before I left Japan to England I gave a recital for my classmates. It was the day when I became sure that it was something I must pursue, make a living from and continue doing professionally until the end of my life. I cannot express enough verbally how moved I was to see my best friends enjoying hearing me perform. I finally understood that music really is able to make one’s mind rich and fill it with joy and happiness.

What prizes (including Company prize) have you won?
The very first big prize I achieved was the overall winner’s prize of the Sapporo Junior Cello Competition in Japan soon after I turned 11. Since then I have won a number of international and national prizes, including the Antonio Janigro International Cello Competition in Croatia in 2006, Music Competition of Japan in 2008, Paris FLAME Music Competition in 2009, International Johannes Brahms Competition in Austria in 2010, Windsor Festival International String Competition in the UK in 2011 and the European Young Concert Artists Audition in Germany in 2012. Other than competition prizes, notable awards include Japanese Government Overseas Programme Award, Rohm Music Foundation Award, Pierre Fournier Educational Award and a Worshipful Company of Musicians Allcard Award.

How has being a Company prizewinner helped you?
The scholarship that the WCOM kindly gave me has been an essential support. Always being given opportunities to perform is more helpful and useful than anything for musicians.

What is your biggest musical achievement so far?
Some of the most memorable achievements are my 2011 début with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Windsor Castle and the release of my début album of “Rachmaninov Complete Cello Works” I recorded soon after. Making critically acclaimed solo recitals at Royal Festival Hall and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan is also a must-mention. It was also wonderful to discover that I am listed in “The Greatest Cello Players of All Time: Top 100” book released by Amazon in 2013.

Tell us about the In Tune Orchestra (ITO) you founded.
The orchestra (whose acronym is the same as my surname) aspires to entertain the audience and intimately connect them with the musicians. This is achieved through performances of the highest calibre delivered by impassioned young professionals and star students from London’s major conservatoires, and careful selection of the programme. The ITO inspires every generation of classical music lovers.

Do you have any advice for new Yeomen?
Endeavour to do your best and always strive for higher goals. Be ambitious!

How can people find out more about you?
It would be wonderful if you could visit my website: www.yukiitocello.com