Makoto Ueno : Pianist

Makoto Ueno Photo

Photo by Alina Zhdanova

Makoto Ueno was born in a family of musicians in 1966 in Muroran, Japan. His grandmother and father were both organists, and they exerted the first musical influences on him.

He left his home town at the age of 16, to study in the West, first at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he became one of the last six students of Jorge Bolet, then continued at Mozarteum Salzburg with Hans Leygraf. In his formative years, Ueno also received instructions and suggestions from such diverse artists as Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Gary Graffman, Edward Aldwell, Felix Galimir, Leon Fleisher, Rosalyn Tureck, Andrzej Jasinski, Radoslav Kvapil, Jacob Lateiner, Ruth Laredo, Seymour Lipkin among others.
In addition, the writings and musical thoughts of Heinrich Schenker, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Artur Schnabel, Edwin Fischer, Sergiu Celibidache, Alfred Brendel, and Glenn Gould, though they are immensely different from each other, influenced him in his early years.

He was a prize-winner at various international competitions such as Maryland(1985), Bösendorfer=Empire(Prix Alex de Vries/Prix. EMS)(Brussels/1986), Geneva(1988), Orléans(Prix Maurice Ohana/ Prix Nadia et Lili Boulanger/Prix Ricardo Viñes)(2002).
In Japan, he was a recipient of the Kyoto City Prize for New Artists, and of the Aoyama Barocksaal Prize, in 2005. In the same year, he also won the Second Prize at the 1st Sviatoslav Richter International Piano Competition in Moscow(2005).

He has played solo and concerto concerts in 15 countries, in Asia, Europe, and American Continent, and also played chamber music often with renowned string players, woodwind players, brass players and singers.

Although Ueno usually plays modern concert grand pianos, he is equally at home with historical instruments. He often performs on Viennese and British fortepianos from 1800~1850, and on Bösendorfer, Streicher, Erard, and Pleyel pianos of 1840~1930.

In 2018 in 2019, a project of performing the complete Violin Sonatas, Cello Sonatas and Variations for Cello and Piano of Beethoven, using the 19th Century instruments such as Mattaeus Stein(attrib.), Broadwood, Graf, Schweighofer and Streicher, with violinist Yasushi Toyoshima, and with cellist Noboru Kamimura, was successfully completed to critical acclaim.

Ueno has been very active in the field of CD recordings in recent years, especially using original instruments of the 19th Century and early 20th Century. CD recordings have been released by Octavia Records, Wakabayashi Koubou, Naxos, Myou-on-sha, Virtus Classics labels, and many of them received “Specially Selected Disc” of the Record Geijutsu Magazine.

His solo CD releases include a disc of Liszt 12 Transcendental Etudes(2004), Debussy and Bartók Etudes(2006), Beethoven Sonatas(2011) with a Broadwood fortepiano made in 1816, Chopin Sonatas (2013) with a Pleyel made in 1846, a recording of Rachmaninoff and Debussy(2013), played on an American Steinway made in 1925, an album of Liszt works(2014) with an Erard made in 1852, a disc dedicated to the works of Wagner=Liszt, Debussy, Scriabin, Schoenberg, and Ravel(2016), played on a historic Bechstein E270 made in 1906, a recording of Debussy and Ravel(2017), with a special Erard with extended 90 keys made in 1927, and a Brahms recording(2019), with a Streicher made in 1846 and a Bösendorfer made in 1903.
The most recent solo CD recordings are Chopin Complete Etudes(2021), played on a Fazioli F-308, and a 2-CD set dedicated to the works for violin and piano and piano solo by Franck, partly played on an American Steinway made in 1922.

On Naxos label, several chamber music recordings by Moscheles(2014), Czerny(2015), Beethoven(2018), and Weber(2019), all playing on Bösendorfer Imperial 290, with flutist Kazunori Seo have been released.
A disc of Schumann Lieder composed in 1840, playing on a Bechstein EN280 was also released in 2018. An album of Brahms Viola Sonatas with violist Hiroshi Narita, with Streicher piano made in 1861 was released in 2020.

Since 1996, he has been teaching as a professor of piano at Kyoto University of Arts. In addition to his teaching at other Japanese universities and institutions, such as Nagoya University of Music, he has served as a jury in major piano competitions in Japan and Europe, and written articles and essays for various Japanese music magazines.
He has given masterclasses in Korea, Thailand, Germany, Turkey, and especially Portugal, where he has taught regularly at Coimbra World Piano Meeting.