Since the 1980s, the acclaimed Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) has been touring in Japan to packed audiences. The orchestra, which is comprised of 17 musicians at the peak of their careers, most recently came to Tokyo in 2018 and was led by globally lauded Artistic Director Richard Tognetti with the group playing the Yomiuri Otemachi Hall. The ACO, during its last tour, also conducted a string workshop at the prestigious Toho Gakuen School of Music and held a masterclass for double bass students at the Tokyo University of the Arts. 

Very much involved in establishing long-standing ties with Japan, the ACO utilizes its own team members to strengthen these bonds, with Japanese violinist Aiko Goto and principal violinist Satu Vänskä, who spent her childhood in Tokushima, leading the way. Tognetti, himself, even owns a property in Niseko and visits Japan regularly. 

On October 10, the ACO will be performing at Kioi Hall in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo. It promises to be an unmissable evening of music with the orchestra playing an intriguing program Leoš Janáček’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major op. 47 “Kreutzer” and the added bonus of Pavel Haas’s String Quartet No. 2 “Z opičích hor (From the Monkey Mountains)” op. 7. 

Tokyo Weekender spoke with violinist Aiko Goto ahead of the performance. She told us about her life with the AOC, its links with Japan and the effect the pandemic had on the company. 

Aiko Goto

What was it like joining the ACO in 1998 and what have been some of the highlights since?

When I joined ACO, the members welcomed me very warmly, like a family.

The highlights are many and difficult to sum up in a few words. Each concert, and especially the international tours, including Japan, is incredible to be a part of. The joy of being able to share our music with audiences is truly amazing.

What’s it like playing in Tokyo and are Japanese audiences different in any particular way?

I am very proud and happy to perform in my hometown. I am especially happy to be on stage with my ACO colleagues. In Japan, the audiences listen quietly and politely. They take the ACO’s music very seriously and gratefully. We always love to perform for our Japanese audiences.

How is it working with Richard Tognetti?

It’s amazing working with Richard. He’s so inspiring and I have learnt so much from him. He has never stopped challenging and improving the orchestra. I love it. 

What do you most look forward to when coming back to Tokyo and Japan?

I’m really looking forward to showing my ACO colleagues lots of local places and restaurants. I also always look forward to spending time with my parents and brother and catching up with my old friends. 

How did the 2020 pandemic affect the ACO?

It was very hard during the 2020 pandemic. In Australia, as was the case all over the world, we couldn’t do concerts, so we filmed our own videos at home and streamed them across the ACO’s social media channels. This evolved into creating our ACO StudioCast concert films, which were watched by our subscribers and around the world. We still create ACO StudioCast films as part of our programming. 

I tear up when I remember the first concert we played when the concert halls reopened. It was held in Sydney, and from the first moment we went on stage, we were welcomed by a huge, enthusiastic applause from the audience. We put our hearts into that performance, and many tears were shed on stage. I was really grateful for sharing beautiful music with my colleagues and the audience. And I realized just how much I, and my ACO colleagues, love performing. 

Are you back to some kind of normality again?

It’s been getting normal since this year in particular. More and more audiences have returned to live concerts.

What should people who attend the upcoming ACO concert in Tokyo expect?

The ACO is a unique chamber orchestra. Nowadays, some chamber orchestras in Japan play standing up, while the ACO has been doing this for more than 30 years. Our concerts are always dynamic — for us and those in the audience. And I’m sure everyone will be fascinated by Richard’s wonderful solo (Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata).

The Australian Chamber Orchestra plays Kioi Hall on October 10.

For more information and ticket purchases check here.