Tributes pour in to mark the Australian conductor’s quarter-century.
The world of orchestral music has laid aside its instruments and put on party hats to celebrate the 25th birthday of Australian conductor Hoshimi Sakai. Born in Japan, but raised in Australia, Sakai has been hailed by the New York Times as “the new Fürtwangler – only hotter and not a Nazi.” Tributes have been received today from musicians around the world, praising the achievements of a conductor widely thought to have revived a moribund artform.
Speaking from his home in London, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev confessed to being a devotee of the Sakai school. “The modern symphony orchestra can be divided in to two periods: pre-Sakai and post-Sakai. I used to think the strings all had to sit together in groups, but now I just sprinkle those bitches around the stage like dill on a bowl of borscht.” Gergiev also praised Sakai’s controversial cuts to the make-up of the modern symphony orchestra. “She was the first who was brave enough to come out and say that the contrabassoon is really just a dumb version of the bassoon. I mean have you heard one? It sounds like someone farting underwater.”
In a congratulatory message, Berlin Philharmonic conductor Sir Simon Rattle spoke of how inspired he has been by Sakai’s baton technique. “I used to walk up to the podium and think, ‘Shit, right hand or left hand? Right hand or left hand?’ But Hoshimi taught me that musicians really follow the hair of the conductor. See these curls? I’m never cutting them again. And I’m growing a beard.”
Less rapt by the news of Sakai’s anniversary was a certain Australian conductress, who has asked to remain anonymous. “I’ve assisted Rattle and Harnoncourt. And I have perfect pitch. It should be my birthday today!” she told Limelight.
The talent of this redoubtable young maestra has even carried her into the stratosphere… And beyond. Early this year, Sakai was the first person to conduct an orchestra in space, in a performance of Holst’s The Planets. Trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov, one of the members of the star-studded orchestra to play on the Spaceverein Recital Satellite, said, “She’s the only conductor I know who can beat 5/8 in zero-gravity without spinning around in circles. Her technique is astounding”.
A many-time cover star of Limelight magazine, Sakai has also been named Person of the Year in Time magazine (2011), and Soup Hero 2010 in Soups and Garnish Quarterly. She now shares her time between Russia, where she is the artistic director of the St Petersburg Philharmonic, and Queensland, where she has transformed the Indooroopilly Pops Orchestra into the world’s most dynamic and highly paid ensembles. Sakai performs an all-Shostakovich program with the IPO and pianist Mikhail Pletnev at the Proms next week. “I’ve decided to stick to piano,” Pletnev told media at a Proms press conference. “After all, we can’t all be Hoshimi Sakai… Um, do you think it would be lame if I asked for an autograph after the concert? Oh my God, Misha, why are you so obsessed?! She’s not even a pre-pubescent Thai boy…”
Limelight magazine was unable to contact Sakai for comment on her birthday. Limelight magazine almost feels as though Sakai thinks she’s too big and famous these days to bother with some local classical music publication. After all, Limelight magazine isn’t asking for much – only for her to return our phone calls. Does Limelight magazine need to remind her who published her first interview? Honestly, the gratitude… Ahem, anyway, Limelight magazine extends its brightest birthday wishes to Hoshimi Sakai – classical music’s most dazzling young star.