Japanese violinist Kyoko Takezawa may have trouble with her English--for which she apologizes frequently and charmingly--but her musical skill needs no defense. In September, 1986, at 19, she won the second quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, besting a field of 160. Appropriately, her first solo recital here on Monday will be part of the Gold Medal series at Ambassador Auditorium.
The engagement will not be Takezawa's Los Angeles debut. She first performed here at the age of 8, on one of several tours by gifted students of Japan's Suzuki Method Assn.
"I don't remember where I played, because I was so young," she said recently by phone from New York, where she is a third-year Juilliard student. "But I remember that I got to go to Disneyland."
Takezawa began studying Suzuki-style as a 3-year-old in her native Nagoya, after the sound of her cousin's violin playing appealed to her. She went on to win numerous awards in Japan. At age 16 she came stateside to the Aspen Music School under the tutelage of Dorothy DeLay, with whom she now studies at Juilliard.
Winning the Indianapolis event, reputedly the richest in the history of violin competitions, meant a $12,000 check, debuts at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress, more than 70 other performances in North America and Europe, and a recording contract.
"I've been doing two to three concerts a month," she said. "Sometimes it's hard to perform and also go to school. But I want to be a concert violinist, so the concerts are more important to me. Juilliard is quite understanding about that.
"In Japan there is not enough opportunity for students to play concerts," she added.
"I've learned a lot since the competition. Playing with an orchestra is much different than practicing with a piano--each instrument has a different sound, and the timing is different. So each concert, even if it is not so very big, is important to me."
In Pasadena, Takezawa will perform Tchaikovsky's "Serenade melancolique"--one of her winning selections at Indianapolis--the composer's "Valse Scherzo," and sonatas by Leclair, Prokofiev and Bartok. She feels a special affinity for the latter, whose Second Concerto she played in Indianapolis, because, she said, "He sometimes has an Oriental sound, as well as a strong rhythmic sound. The sonata I'll be doing is not famous, but it is dramatic and beautiful."
There are some pieces she will not attempt till she has more experience, Takezawa said. "You can't play Bach's solo sonatas and partitas just for fun. I want to learn a lot of other music, then build up to them. And Beethoven's Violin Concerto isn't just a technically brilliant piece--it's so hard to move the audience with it, so I first want to understand it better myself."
On a less distant horizon, Takezawa hopes, will be chamber music concerts.
"I've been learning to play this music at school," she said. "It's so much fun to play with musicians who may have different ideas than you."
Coming up as well will be her annual visit to Japan, to perform and see her parents--her father is a director and engineer for Toyota--and physician brother. This summer she will do a European tour and perform at the Aspen Music Festival. Her Carnegie debut is scheduled for October, two weeks before her twenty-second birthday.
"The important thing in doing any of these concerts, the one thing I always think about, is to feel the music so that I can move the audience," she said.
"I have to play the music for them, give them something. I don't play for myself."