Accompanietta performs first ever student-conducted Mahler symphony


(Jeffrey Wang/The Daily Northwestern) Bienen graduate student Taichi Fukumura conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 as performed by the Accompianetta, an ensemble he created to give musicians more opportunities to play solos and accompaniments.

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter

After an emotional experience playing Mahler’s first symphony in a youth orchestra, Bienen graduate student Taichi Fukumura will soon perform the piece again — but this time, from the other side of the podium.

Fukumura and Accompanietta, an orchestra he founded, will present Mahler 1 as part of a concert Saturday in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Accompanietta consists of current students, recent graduates and a few local musicians, Fukumura said.

As a prelude to Mahler’s first symphony, Accompanietta will also play German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits,” which will feature Bienen senior Susan Kang on flute. The group has only four rehearsals before the concert.

Fukumura first came up with the idea of Accompanietta while getting his undergraduate degree in Boston, and the group had its first concert there in 2011. He said the idea behind this type of orchestra is to give members opportunities to play solo and accompaniment music. Since the idea of Accompanietta is to play largely soloistic repertoire, playing a symphony — which doesn’t traditionally focus on solo playing — is a bit unusual, Fukumura said.

“(Mahler 1) is a very virtuosic symphony, and there are lots of solo moments where people get to play out on their own,” he said. “We’ve never done something of this scale. It’s very exciting.”

Fukumura said he loves both pieces on the program, calling Mahler’s music “sheerly expansive” and “explosive.” He added that he is proud of all his colleagues for the work they are putting into the project.

Fukumura said he was thrilled when he got approval to play Mahler 1 from his teacher, Bienen professor and director of orchestras Victor Yampolsky. Mahler’s first symphony, a complex piece that requires a large ensemble, has never been conducted by a student at Northwestern before, Fukumura said.

“Taichi represents the best of our school of music,” Yampolsky said. “In addition to being talented and brilliant, he is a very hardworking student, and he is very humble. That foundation gives me very good realistic hope for his future as a conductor.”

Accompanietta concertmaster Miki Nagahara said Fukumura is particularly passionate about what he does and gets absorbed in the music he works on.

“Taichi is very perceptive about what the dynamics of working in rehearsal are,” the Bienen senior said. “It’s a learning thing for student conductors — learning how to rehearse a group — and with him, it seems to come naturally.”

Yampolsky, who observed Accompanietta’s rehearsals, said Fukumura was “totally at home” on the podium.

“He was very calm, and his mind was working perfectly in distributing all of his information, which a conductor has to do,” Yampolsky said. “I have very great expectations for his performance. It’s certainly going to be a landmark in this school of music.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the orchestra. It is spelled Accompanietta. The Daily regrets the error.