On Monday, the MU School of Music Faculty and Guest Artist Series will present a two-piano recital featuring Peter Miyamoto and Ayako Tsuruta. What may surprise listeners is that their cohesion onstage reflects not only their partnership in music but their partnership in marriage, as well.
“I think because of our personal relationship, we have a foundation of understanding that usually takes years to establish in most musical partnerships,” said Miyamoto, an assistant professor of piano at MU. “Because of this, it’s possible for us to go deeper into the emotional worlds of these masterpieces and a truly great experience going through this process with the one you love.”
However, the process is not without its tensions, he said.
“When there are differences of opinion in interpretation, I suppose it can be challenging keeping the professional/musical relationship separate from the personal,” Miyamoto continued. “But to some extent, this is true for any collaborators, married or not. I will say that so far, neither of us has ended up sleeping on the couch because of an argument over a tempo.”
Tsuruta, the artistic director of Odyssey Chamber Music Series and the Plowman National Chamber Music Competition of the Missouri Symphony Society, expressed similar sentiments about some of the trials of practicing with her spouse. “I must admit that my worst side kicks in and rehearsals tend to get more personal; that is to say, I am not as diplomatic about how I say what — which is horrible,” Tsuruta said. “I am working on this and learning a lot from Peter, who remains ever a gentleman.”
Still, when it is time to go onstage, the pains of practice pay off.
“It is definitely a lot of fun going on stage with Peter,” Tsuruta said. “Perhaps because we have known each other for (13 years), I share the stage with my husband with 200 percent trust that, no matter what, we will be there for each other.”
The couple, who were married in 2004, will perform selections they chose together including works by Mozart, Ravel, Damase and Rachmaninoff.
“Although there are thousands of great works written for solo piano, the repertoire written for two performers is more limited,” Miyamoto explained. “Of these works, some are written for two performers at one piano, while others are written to be performed at two pianos. When we chose this program, we purposefully chose to only play pieces for two pianos. It turns out Ayako prefers having her own keyboard and space.”
The program also gives them an opportunity to show off two of the beautiful 9-foot concert grand pianos at MU, he said.
Miyamoto, who has performed at many locations in Europe, Asia and the United States, said each venue provides a different acoustic and feel. “I find Whitmore Recital Hall quite intimate,” he said. “Having performed at hundreds of different venues throughout the world, one gets used to adapting one’s ears and technique to whatever piano and acoustic one finds.”
Playing in the city they call home is something special for the couple, Tsuruta said, because they care deeply about Columbia’s cultural advancement. “Therefore, we feel more responsible for how and what we present,” she said. “We hope that ultimately, students and the community would be excited and inspired by what we do and would continue to recognize the importance of and support quality classical music in the community.”