Japanese violin player Mayuko Katumura will perform later this month in the Purcell Room alongside Noriko Kawai on the piano. We caught up with Mayuko ahead of the concert:

You grew up in Japan, but studied in London and have since gone on to perform all over the world. Can you tell us a bit more about your musical background?

My grandfather (my mother’s side) was a great classical music lover and every weekend at the family-get-together since I was a baby, I used to listen to LPs of all the major violin concertos. From this very early introduction to classical music,  I have never thought of any other profession than as a violinist.

When I studied at the music high school in Tokyo, I was lucky to have a wonderful violin teacher who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He recommended I study with Professor Yfrah Neaman at the Guildhall, who was his teacher.  So I came to London when I was 19 and studied with Yfrah for 6 years. It must have been difficult for him to talk with me at first as I did not speak English at all then. However, I was surrounded by kind, generous English friends at the Guildhall and I soon got used to all the aspect of living in London

What’s your earliest musical memory?
At my grandparents at the weekends, when my mother was trying to make me have an afternoon nap, she always play the LP of Schubert’s string quartet “ Death and Maiden “. When she let me listen to this, I always knew I was going to be left on my own while everybody else was together in the other room. I was only 2 years old. However, this memory stays very clear in my mind, and I still feel the same loneliness whenever I listen to this quartet!

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming concert at Southbank Centre? 
It is first time for me to perform at the Purcell Room, and I am very excited about it, as ever since I came to England and attended concerts at the Southbank Centre, I was saying to myself that I want to perform in this small and intimate hall in the future.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written? 
I would say Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita no. 2

What other talent or skill would you like to possess? 
I always imagine what would happen if I could speak French and German when I woke up next morning! It took 14 years for me to learn English, so I really wish I had a talent for languages!

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Henryk Szeryng (I am a big fan) presented by Mr. Bean

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
Currently it is Henryk Szeryng playing Handel’s Sonata in D. His playing is really heavenly.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform? 
I always stretch out my legs like a Sumo wrestler before wearing my concert dress. This action is called “Matawari “in the Sumo world, and is very important in preparation for the fight!

We are a very limited number of tickets available at 50% discount. Simply quote the word ‘MAYUKO’ over the phone or online into the promo-code box on the event page before choosing your seats.

For more information about the concert and to book your tickets  click here


On 26th September, we welcome two extremely talented Japanese musicians, Mayuko Katsumura and Noriko Kawai, to Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room. Violinist Mayuko, a major prize winner in national music competitions in Japan, will be performing alongside Noriko Kawai on the piano.

For a sneak preview of what’s in store, you can listen to this audio clip of Mayuko performing a 2nd movement of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto no.1 with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in March earlier this year.

Listen to Mayuko Katsumura – live at Abbey Road studio.

Click here for more info and to book tickets

Getting to Know Yekaterina Lebedeva

Southbank Centre welcomes the return of internationally acclaimed pianist Yekaterina Lebedeva, who will be performing in the Purcell Room on 10th May. Yekaterina is well known for her exciting innovative programming which explores ways of linking music with other art forms such as dance, poetry and visual arts. We catch up with her ahead of her forthcoming concert.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre?
I find it a thrilling experience to play at the Purcell Room. It feels particularly special this time because I haven’t played here for a while. I am a real world traveller and have played in some faraway places, but there is nothing like playing in London at the Southbank Centre! I am also very excited because I am going to play music by one of my favourite composers: Alexander Scriabin. He is such an enigmatic composer! A man who thought himself to be God’s messenger to bring people together through art and creativity. A man who believed that music should be experienced with all our senses: vision, smell, touch. Even though I am unable to provide the “full” experience as Scriabin envisaged, there will be something special for people to take away from the concert. There are 2 great enthusiasts of Scriabin that I happen to call friends: the design consultant/artist Paul Bagshawe and the public artist Martin Firrell. Once they heard about this concert, the idea was born to create a piece of art work which will follow Scriabin ideas. So there is a surprise in store for everyone who will come which they will be able to take away with them!

How did you choose the programme and the title of your concert?
I find Soviet composers fascinating. They are the realists of the title, and they had to be in order to survive in those days. They wrote stuff to please the censors on occasion, and yet they managed to describe the true human condition in the oppressive regime they lived in. For example, in Sviridov’s Partita the first movement reminds me of Konchalovsky’s film Runaway Train and similarly here the massive “Soviet Locomotive” arrives nowhere. The hero dies early on, as the 3rd movement is a funeral march. Lastly the triumphant music feels to me like it is written in the style of passacaglia. Prokofiev had to apologise to Stalin for writing “anti-Socialist music” and yet he delivered such a remarkable theme of love in Romeo and Juliet. And of course, Scriabin, at the other end, did not have to deal with the Soviet Regime but he was a mystic – pure escapism from reality.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
Music is like a vast universe of sounds drawn together. You can find everything in it reflecting every moment in life. It is difficult to speak of the “best” work. There are also different instruments which speak in different voices. My musical love affair goes through stages depending on what else goes on in my life. At the moment I am very involved in Scriabin 3rd piano sonata. It is the last Sonata he wrote in separate movements. It is called “Etats d’âme” which translates as “States of the Soul” and in a way it represents the life’s cycle.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
For the moment it is the Scriabin Sonata No.3. I particularly love the third movement because I imagine that this is like a real paradise would be or like being in love (which is a beauty of life). It is full of exquisite harmonies and displays a wonderful embroidery of musical lines. I also love the second movement which reminds me of the scene in one of my favourite books – “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov – when the two lovers were taken by Voland (the devil himself) to the place of rest and peace and they race through the night sky on his horses. The fourth and first movements are exhilarating to play with their sheer burst of energy and life.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
I am happy with what I already have. If it was something different, it wouldn’t be me!

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
I would love to hear Krystian Zimerman play with Tasmin Little or with Isaac Perelman and hear Radu Lupu play Brahms piano concerto with Furtwängler conducting.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
It is probably piano concerto by Poulenc. It always cheers me up!

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
Well, I do not know if this is a strange ritual, but I do try to sleep in the afternoon before the performance. Ancient Greeks who invented siesta, knew what they were talking about!

Click here for more info and to buy tickets to Yekaterina’s concert