Press reviews
Gramophone
Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov
  Two great Russian piano masterpieces in a subtle and soulful recording - Hideyo Harada offers a reading that thrills. 
Gramophone
Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov

Two great Russian piano masterpieces in a subtle and soulful recording - Hideyo Harada offers a reading that thrills

What a compelling coupling this is, and how good to hear Tchaikovsky's still-underrated cycle given a reading which conveys its grit and grandeur as well as its beauty. The cycle was commissioned by the editor of a St Petersburg journal, Le Nouvelliste, and the pieces were published as a kind of musical part-work. When the set was published complete, each piece was headed by lines of verse by a Russian poet, Tolstoy and Pushkin among them, though such is the vividness of Tchaikovsky's writing that the music needs no explanation.

Tchaikovsky's flitting lark (March) and his irresistible walzes for April and December are a particular delight in Hideyo Harada's hands. She's not afraid of full-blooded climaxes either, as witness the choppier waters of June's initially lilting barcarolle. And her "Autumn Song" (October) is desolate enough to soften the hardest of hearts. Pletnev's masterly version remains a benchmark, and though Harada matches him in soulfulness, there are times when his more vigorous approach wins the day, not least in a wild harvest (August) and a hunt (September) where you can almost smell the blood.

Harada is also up against a very fine Pletnev recording in Rachmaninov's Corelli Variations, that solo masterpiece just one opus number apart from his unaccountably more popular Paganini Variations. Pletnev may have the historical advantage of performing on Rachmaninov's own piano, but there's little in it, musically speaking. The subtlety with which Harada approaches the theme itself sets the scene for a reading that thrills as much for its nuance as for its brilliance – especially the extrovert Vars 11, 16 and 18. The wonderfully warm recording sets the seal on a highly recommendable disc.

Gramophone, a British music magazine

Pizzicato
Schubert
 In addition to a delightful and spirited energy, Harada’s playing also manifests a conceptual depth that is experienced only rarely. 
Pizzicato
Schubert

Should one speak of a genuine surprise – or instead simply of the confirmation of an extraordinary talent? Regardless, this Schubert program by the Japanese pianist Hideyo Harada impressed me more strongly than a stack of recordings bearing more familiar names. Harada has long since merited our attention through a series of competition prizes and distinctions. This Schubert recording too will make you sit up and pay attention. Not solely by virtue of its superb recorded quality in surround sound, which gives the piano an fully natural sonority, but above all through the beauty and authenticity of the performance, which penetrates deeply into the inner world of both featured compositions.

The Fantasy in C major D 760, the so-called Wanderer Fantasy, which often serves as a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity, displays all of the requisite technical artistry, but in addition to a delightful and spirited energy, Harada’s playing also manifests a conceptual depth that is experienced only rarely. She takes the time to listen closely to the music, bringing to light Schubert’s rich emotional world. Rarely has the exquisite Adagio received such a moving interpretation. In Schubert’s final Sonata in B Flat Major, she journeys even further into Schubert’s mysteries. This works too is performed at a rather deliberate tempo (46'10: a playing time close to Sviatoslav Richter) – yes it makes a thoughtful impression rather than a ‘sluggish’ one, introverted, even dreamy, especially in the opening Molto moderato movement, a highly nuanced performance that sets themes and motifs off against one another with great clarity. Even more contemplative, more introspective, is the marvelous Andante sostenuto, which allows the tragic dimension in Schubert to resonate with such moving inwardness and intensity. Hideyo Harada has given us a recording that can be set alongside some of the most celebrated.

Pizzicato, a Luxembourgian music magazine

International Piano
Schumann
 The fact that her expressive force seems entirely driven from within makes for a highly meaningful account. 
International Piano
Schumann

Hideyo Harada trained in her native Japan, as well as in Europe and, latterly, at the Moscow Conservatory with the venerable Victor Merzhanov. This third release for Audite reveals her as an engaging artist. Throughout, her carefully detailed fingerwork and pedalling bring clarity within the rich textures, and although she responds well to the introspective moments of the Fantasie – especially in an unusually serene final movement, which becomes something of a delicious reverie – she is more than equal to the work's blustery, testosterone-driven passion. The fact that her expressive force seems entirely driven from within makes for a highly meaningful account. Her Kreisleriana displays the same combination of athleticism and poetry. An increasingly transparent and deftly spun middle section in no.3, 'Sehr aufgeregt', emerges into a fiery climax, amply underlining the wide mood-swings of Johannes Kreisler – the unstable, borderline-genius music-master of E.T.A. Hoffmann's creation, on whom Schumann based this set of fantasias.

International Piano, a British music magazine

Fanfare
Grieg
 This is one of the most beautiful sounding piano recordings I have ever heard. 
Fanfare
Grieg

…Hideyo Harada, a Japanese native who finished her training in Stuttgart, Vienna, and Moscow, plays with a tonal polish and technical élan that emphasizes the prettiness of the music (which is there aplenty), but her readings are not superficial; and she can dig in and reveal grit as the material demands. This is all good, because her playing is very much under the microscope, sonically speaking. To put it simply, this is one of the most beautiful sounding piano recordings I have ever heard. …

Fanfare, an American music magazine

Fono Forum
Schubert
 By choosing points of emphasis in a highly individual way, Harada easily holds her own against the competition. 
Fono Forum
Schubert

Clearly, Hideyo Harada is an artist (the lie of which are encountered with increasing infrequency) who takes a great deal of time with her recordings, determined to create exceptionally well-wrought interpretations of great intellectual penetration. Following the subtle miniatures of Tchaikovsky’s Seasons, Harada astonished her listeners with an emphatic performance of Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, before turning her attention toward a pair of works by Schubert.

By choosing points of emphasis in a highly individual way, Harada easily holds her own against the competition. In both the Wanderer Fantasy and the Sonata, the sheer beauty of her playing seems to elevate it into a higher sphere. The roundness of her tone, the way her phrases breathe, the lucid architectural structure, her subtle instinct for heightened intensity, her tireless alertness: all of these elements combine to produce convincing performances that benefit as well from the recording technology and the brilliance of the instrument employed.

Harada opens the Fantasy with dramatic aplomb, at the same time avoiding the misuse of this massive sonic gesture for a demonstration of sheer power. In the Adagio, she achieves a genuine miracle of interpretive intensity that allows the deep sense of yearning to become palpable. And in the Sonata as well, many psychologically satisfying moments allow the work to transcend its grieving atmosphere, suffusing it with the warm light of compassionate humaneness.

Fono Forum, a German music magazine

AllMusic
Schumann
 ... this recording of Schumann's Fantasia in C, Op. 17, and Kreisleriana, Op. 16, is not one to miss. 
AllMusic
Schumann

Audite's super audio CD release Schumann: Fantasia; Kreisleriana; Arabeske made its bow as the classical music world observed the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann's birth amidst a veritable flood of Schumann solo piano recordings in the market. This, of course, adds to the already established surfeit of acknowledged classics by long ago keyboard masters such as Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz and newer, less idiosyncratic — and highly recommendable — offerings by Murray Perahia, Alfred Brendel, Mikhail Pletnev, Evgeny Kissin, and so on. Japanese pianist Hideyo Harada concentrates her concert career mainly in Germany and her native Japan; however, her previous Audite recording of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov has gained high marks among critics in the English-speaking world, so perhaps her entry in the Schumann sweepstakes stands a chance.

Whether Harada hits the jackpot or not in such a crowded field, this recording of Schumann's Fantasia in C, Op. 17, and Kreisleriana, Op. 16, is not one to miss. The sound is quite good; there's some noticeable compression to the recording, but not so much that it's distracting, and the piano's sound tends toward the dark hues, though it does not fail to provide a sense of warmth. One of the aspects that made Rubinstein's old RCA Victor recordings of these works so enduring was the closeness of the recording itself; it was so right up on Rubinstein that you could almost hear the sound of a depressed key hitting the felt below, and the feeling of immediacy and intimacy that resulted was palpable. Here, Harada manages to convey much the same impression, but with the piano sound being placed not quite so close; bass sonorities ring out, and higher passagework sparkles with a certain kind of special, gracious lilt. This is especially apparent in the Kreisleriana, which is given a great, carefully modulated and memorable performance here; reflective passages are given a patient, hushed reading, whereas stormier ones are dazzlingly virtuosic, though Harada never loses control. Harada also manages to worm in the Arabeske, Op. 18, in addition to the usual pairing of the Fantaisie in C and Kreisleriana, usually enough to fill a disc on their own. Overall, Audite's Schumann: Fantasia; Kreisleriana; Arabeske is an excellent choice for these standard works whether one is coming to them for the first time or has sipped at this particular fount for many a season.

allmusic.com, cd-reviews

klassik.com
Grieg and Tchaikovsky

Pianist Hideyo Harada received considerable notice during the Grieg Jubilee year. For me, her recording of lyric works by Grieg was among the most delightful pianistic discoveries of 2007. As a logical extension, Harada has now recorded Tchaikovsky's piano cycle The Seasons (Audite, 2008). Not unlike Grieg's Nordic impressions, these 12 portraits of the months of the year are still dismissed as occasional works, stigmatized as agreeable music best played at home. The complete cycle is virtually never heard in concert performances. Only a few of these pieces surface sporadically in the repertoires of Russian pianists, as a rule serving as encores.

When one listens to the meanwhile numerous available recordings of the complete Seasons, one soon realizes why this is so: even great Tchaikovsky interpreters such as Postnikova and Pletnev can hardly conceal the fact that not all of the "Months" merit the same degree of attentiveness. Just compare the hollow jangling of Pletnev's fluent version of "Carnival" (February) with the magical atmosphere he conjures in the piece that immediately follows, the "Song of the Lark" (March) (Virgin, 1994). One is aware right away of Pletnev's personal preference.

Hideyo Harada's recording of the Seasons is free of such value judgments. The mellow, almost maternal love of this interpreter is showered on each "Month" in equal degree. Already in "By the Fireside" (January), Harada entrances the listener with her indescribably fine shadings of dynamics and tone color. In her hands, nostalgia, contemplativeness, and restlessness are fused into a captivating whole. Harada's pellucid tone, illuminated from within, is sustained and at the same time weightless. The choice of tempi, rubato, the delicate, flexible articulation: all of these elements seem to emerge of their own accord from the musical text. Moreover, Harada draws audible inspiration from the verses of Russian poetry which precede each piece. An instance of this is "On the Troika" (November): the sorrow and plaintiveness that wind their way continually through this affectionate, yearning music in E flat major endow it with additional depth.

Also featured on Harada's new CD are Rachmaninov's Corelli Variations op. 42. While naturalness and euphony predominate in the Tchaikovsky, Harada here summons darker, more somber, even demonic moods – while astonishing as a furious, high-octane virtuoso. The celebrated "La Folia" theme has never sounded so seductive. Sadness and pain are joined here by shimmering eroticism.

Harada's finely-shaped, formally consummate interpretation of the Corelli Variations dispels any doubt that Rachmaninov has here produced a masterwork. Harada banishes anything reminiscent of salon music. She demonstrates how Rachmaninov was able to restrain and channel his inexhaustible sense of fantasy with the help of the venerable variation form. Triumph and despair, brutality and tenderness, naïve laughter and grotesque masquerade: Harada seeks out unity within multiplicity and discovers a persuasive balance of interpretative calculation and intuitively shaped sound.

www.klassik.com, cd-reviews

SA-CD.net
Schubert
 I was completely spellbound and I cannot but wholeheartedly recommend this disk. 
SA-CD.net
Schubert

This is a delight. Hideyo Harada gives us a performance of both the Wanderer Fantasy and the Sonata D 960 that can measure up with the best. For me Schubert is not quite suited for power players. It would seem that most of his solo piano compositions are better served by tenderness, 'sehnsucht', 'leidenschaft' and a reflective approach. Harada has all that. She is, of course, not new to this kind of repertoire. Some 8 years ago she launched an ambitious Schubert cycle in Tokyo, not only covering the complete music for piano solo, but also the various pieces Schubert wrote for chamber players. From the well documented liner notes one learns that she won a number of prizes in international piano competitions. However, the real the proof of the pudding is in the eating, i.e. in the concert hall, or, in this particular case, the recording studio. Harara does not disappoint. Aided with a beautiful piano sound, so well captured by the Audite engineers (in PCM), and her flawless technical skills, she brings us an interesting coupling of two key works. The Wanderer Fantasy, perhaps the most monumental piece of Schubert's piano 'oeuvre', comes off very well. Energetically, yet thoughtfully played. But for me the best part of this disk is her intelligent, romantic and sometimes dreaming performance of Schubert's final Piano Sonata. One of the difficulties with Schubert is that his sonatas can become all too easily fragmented in less competent hands, whereby the soloist loses the flow and hence the coherence of the overall structure. Harada's careful approach and her often light and clear 'toucher' keeps the structure intact from the first till the very last note, whilst, at the same time, revealing the deeply emotional feelings which Schubert has hidden in the score, notwithstanding the key of B flat Major and the quasi optimistic singing melodies in the third movement. I was completely spellbound and I cannot but wholeheartedly recommend this disk.

www.SA-CD.net

audaud.com
Schumann
 Harada's sensitivity to Schumann's ritardandi and agogic accents makes her performance a keeper, especially given the lucidity of her piano tone. 
audaud.com
Schumann

Japanese pianist Hideyo Harada is a pupil of Hans Kann and Viktor Merzhanov, and she enters this fine disc as part of the ongoing Schumann bi-centennial celebration of his birth. Recorded 16-18 June 2008 at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, Ms. Harada plays a resonant Steinway D, which enjoys a solid middle and lovely upper registers. Harada approaches the great 1836 C Major Fantasie as a pastiche in moods and colors, albeit derived from certain references to Beethoven's Op. 98 song-cycle, "An die ferne Geliebte," which Schumann employs anagrammatically to refer to his own beloved Clara Schumann. The music's first movement, fluctuating between huge arpeggiated sequences and hymnal chord progressions, breaks off into a literary mode he calls a "legend," that becomes fragmented, even uttering Perpetuum mobile elements and figures from his own Papillons. Several motifs seem derived from Beethoven's famous "Moonlight" Sonata, which return in the last movement.

Harada has her hands full, certainly, to balance the eclectic and mercurial pastiche this music can become, and she seems intent to project as much of an arch-form as possible, always sensitive to her tone and color palette. Schumann himself held the second movement dearest to this own heart, a kind of triumphal march in the spirit of Beethoven that offsets the feverish melancholy of the first movement. The syncopations and agogics can fluster some pianists, but Harada relishes the both the tempests and the poetic oases the movement proffers, saving the bravura for the last pages, which quite demand it. What Harada projects in the last movement, a grand adagio, is a luminous serenity, an emotional resolution not necessarily heroic but radiant in its aesthetic pose.

The 1838 suite Kreisleriana marks a willful departure into the virtuoso repertory, an attempt to convert E.T.A. Hoffmann's mythical, Faust-like Johannes Kreisler into a pattern of alter-egos in music similar to Schumann's own dichotomy of Florestan and Eusebius. The eight-movement suite gravitates between D Minor and G Minor, with frequent excursions into B-flat Major. The exception comes in the seventh episode, marked Sehr rasch and cast in C Minor and E-flat Major, the outer sections much in the spirit of Beethoven. Passionate, dreamy, impulsive, occasionally splenetic, the pieces move through storms and stresses to find cantabile moments of devout serenity. Songlike simplicity alternates with "learned" procedures, especially fugal writing in the manner of Schumann's revered J.S. Bach, again in piece No. 7. The G Minor finale, "Fast and Playful," contains tripping seeds for Schumann's Spring Symphony finale. Again, Harada exploits her capacity to make tone, as in the third movement, Sehr aufgeregt (quite agitated), a G Minor nocturne in the elastic spirit of Chopin but marked by Schumann's own melancholy idiom. (Movement six offers another Nocturne in B-flat Major, but its style of upward scales seems archaic and emotionally intricate, yet close to the Chopin Op. 37.) The galloping figure that occupies the outer sections projects a teasing yet frenzied passion, a series of broken chords that threaten to sweep us away. Innigkeit - Schumann's call for inwardness - manifests itself in sections three and four, the harmonies gravitating to places well beyond classical constraints. The arabesques of number five, Scherzando in G Minor, project a mercurial, manic side of Schumann's personality, exploding into cascades of sound Debussy would find attractive. Harada's sensitivity to Schumann's ritardandi and agogic accents - he employs twelve hemiolas or metric shifts in No. 5 - makes her performance a keeper, especially given the lucidity of her piano tone, courtesy of engineer Ludger Boeckenhoff, and the SACD's clarity.

The famous 1838 Arabeske in C drips with nostalgia, set as an ostinato and melody in continuous dialogue in five sections and an epilogue. Harada plays the piece as a song without words, mercurial, evasive, occasionally melancholy and reflective, as the Minore sections converse and interact, confident in their poetic and physical reconciliation, as Schumann must have dreamt his longing for his beloved Clara Wieck.

www.audaud.com/classical-cd-reviews

ClassicsToday
Grieg's Lyric Pieces
 Harada displays a high level of artistry throughout the 22 selections that make up this thoughtfully programmed, beautifully recorded, and unusually distinctive Grieg recital. 
ClassicsToday
Grieg's Lyric Pieces

Grieg's Lyric Pieces lend themselves to a wide variety of approaches, from the nervous energy and disquiet of the composer's own playing (faintly preserved on ancient acoustic discs) to the introspective delicacy of Gieseking and Gilels. Pianist Hideyo Harada goes her own way as she follows carefully mapped-out interpretive itineraries. In the A minor Melody Op. 47 No. 3, she opts for broad pacing in the outer sections, where she coaxes out inner voices in long arcs. Perhaps Erotik (Op. 43 No. 5) lingers too much when it ought to move along, yet the focus and intensity with which the central climax builds cannot be denied.

The famous Butterfly Op. 43 No. 1 usually flutters with the wind. Here, however, it's choreographed with painstaking refinement, as are the B minor Op. 62 No. 4 Brooklet's trickling patterns. Similar observations apply to the dynamic gradations in Vanished Days (Op. 57 No. 1) as well as to the Op. 54 No. 5 Scherzo's amazingly dead-of-center scales and runs. It's also a relief to hear Wedding Day at Troldhaugen so elegantly shaped and articulated (many pianists simply pound it to death); ditto the March of the Trolls.

To be sure, Harada doesn't project Grieg's melodies with the natural ebb and flow or disarming simplicity marking Antonio Pompa-Baldi's interpretations on Centaur. You might say that Harada relates to Pompa-Baldi in Grieg's Lyric Pieces as Michelangeli does to Rubinstein in Chopin's Mazurkas: not that there's anything wrong with that! In other words, Harada displays a high level of artistry throughout the 22 selections that make up this thoughtfully programmed, beautifully recorded, and unusually distinctive Grieg recital.

ClassicsToday.com

AllMusic
Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov
 Most impressive is her incredible control over voicing, effortlessly bringing the melody to the forefront while maintaining a robust, well-rounded backdrop. 
AllMusic
Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov

Tchaikovsky's set of 12 character pieces entitled The Seasons came as a commission from the editor of the musical journal Le Nouvelliste, Nikolai Bernard. It was Bernard who gave Tchaikovsky the specific title of each of the pieces — each based on activities taking place in a specific month of the year — the overall title of the set, as well as later adding an excerpt of poetry to accompany each movement. One might expect such a rigid framework to encumber Tchaikovsky's creative freedom, but in fact, he thrived. Each of the short little gems is a musical world all its own. Guiding listeners through the 12 months is pianist Hideyo Harada, whose interpretive skills are as varied and multifaceted as Tchaikovsky's compositions. Most impressive is her incredible control over voicing, effortlessly bringing the melody to the forefront while maintaining a robust, well-rounded backdrop. Her attention to detail, nuance, and rubato certainly do not go unnoticed. Harada brings this same level of precision and intricacy to her performance of Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Corelli. Despite the ever-increasing technical demands Rachmaninov puts on pianists through the course of the 20 variations, Harada never lets difficulty overshadow musical beauty.

allmusic.com, cd-reviews

Piano News
Schubert
 Harada is not satisfied with simply repeating things that have been said a thousand times before. 
Piano News
Schubert

… In this recording, just as with the celebrated B-Flat Major Sonata, Harada is not satisfied with simply repeating things that have been said a thousand times before. She strives for the new, the fresh, the unspoiled – nor is she averse to risk-taking. A must for your CD shelf.

Piano News, a German music magazine

American Record Guide
Grieg's Lyric Pieces
 Artistic Quality: 10 Points, Sound Quality: 10 Points 
American Record Guide
Grieg's Lyric Pieces

Highest Rating
Artistic Quality: 10 Points
Sound Quality: 10 Points

Japanese born Harada plays 22 of these ever-fresh works, including many favorites. Her performances are attractive, the SACD sound is very good…

americanrecordguide.com

Pizzicato
Grieg and his magic
 There is nostalgia here, the glitter of water and of crystal, and a tenderness mixed with humor. 
Pizzicato
Grieg and his magic

When the music lover encounters this bright bouquet of pieces, poetically interpreted by Hideyo Harada, then he realizes at once that this pianist has a deep affinity to the magical, romantic, and colorful world of the Norwegian composer.

The first few bars of each individual piece immediately establishes its character; these numerous short pieces are then woven together into a grandiose musical vista. There is nostalgia here, the glitter of water and of crystal, and a tenderness mixed with humor. Not only does Hideyo Harada have full command of Edvard Grieg's idiom, she is also a pianist of outstanding artistry and musical imagination.

This CD contains one third of the "Lyric Pieces." We are eagerly awaiting the remainder …

Pizzicato, a Luxembourgian music magazine