To me, this piano duet feels exactly like what inspired Dai Fujikura – the ultra-hectic, overscheduled life of a young boy growing up in Tokyo. Like a series of jump cuts and splices, crazily dense passages alternate with layers of cascading sound and then to moments of repose that are still full of tension because of what we know if coming up all too soon.

Choreography is probably the biggest challenge in the piece. The fast runs and rapid-fire repeated notes and chords are difficult to begin with, but when you are flinging yourself around and trying to remember whether you agreed to go over or under your partner’s arms, it makes it exponentially more difficult.

The pictures that are painted, albeit brief, are quite compelling. Fujikura’s use of register and resonance give this piece its prismatic appeal. Underpinning the whole piece is a lovely, subtle textural counterpoint. The gestures don’t overwhelm you, but rather give this piece enough narrative to give it widespread audience appeal. For all the rhythmic complexity and swarms of buzzing notes, Fujikura really is a sensualist.

Of course if another duo wanted to play this piece, they wouldn’t necessarily need to be married but it would be great to imagine other pianists getting it on after playing Half Remembered City. Maybe I could then start a dating agency.

Fujikura wrote this piece for a wife-husband team, and considered their intimacy and relationship as he wrote the piece. Duos will need a lot of time to recreate this matrimonial spirit. I learned this piece with Simon Docking, and while much of the discussion was related to who would be on top, Simon and I have conspicuously resisted its siren song. During passages where our fingers strained to interlock like a sadistic jigsaw puzzle, our hands bearing numerous cuts and scratches, the result of furiously rapid hand position leaps and shifts, we wondered if Dai wasn’t unconsciously describing other, less celebrated aspects of matrimony.

Notes to the Performer:

  • Figure out which repeated gestures are easier to switch fingers on, switch hands on and which are better without switching. Of course, on chords, you just have to shake it out.
  • One thing that helps me when playing repeated notes is to think about coming out, rather than going in to the keybed. There’s plenty of pressure already coming in, and if you amplify it with your approach, it can slow you down and lock you up.                   
  • Pieces like this, which use the entire range of the keyboard, really need a lot of thought put into relative voicing. You really want to emphasize the dimensionality of the sound, to give it more “depth”.

Title: Half-Remembered City    

Composer:  Dai Fujikura (1977-)

Country:  Japan

Duration: 11 min

Date of Composition: 2002

Publisher:  Ricordi 

Purchase Link:

Commission: Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong/The PRS Foundation for New Music

Dedication: Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong

Premiere: Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong, Sep 4, 2002, Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Performance History:  




Notes from Dai Fujikura

This piece was written for my friends Waka Hasegawa and Joseph Tong. For me, who I am writing for is a very important part of the composition process. I always get my inspiration from the musicians who are going to premiere the piece. This inspiration also comes from their personalities. They might be sporty, or film buffs, or foodies. I know Waka and Joseph rather well. Also they happen to be married… and sharing a piano!… that was my starting point. The idea of husband and wife sharing a piano was quite sensual to me. I wanted those four hands to be as close as possible when they play. I also liked the idea of them holding the keys silently so that when the other notes are played, suddenly those silent keys start ringing. I wanted to let the chords build up together by two players. In a partnership often one person’s action is silently contributed to by the other. To me this is an expression of love. Of course if another duo wanted to play this piece, they wouldn’t necessarily need to be married but it would be great to imagine other pianists getting it on after playing Half Remembered City. Maybe I could then start a dating agency. Another influence on this piece was that I knew that it would be premièred in Japan, my home country. I was thinking about my typical ultra-busy school boy life there, no day off. That may be why this piece has so many rapid contrasting elements like a Japanese schoolboy’s very busy day. — Dai Fujikura

Dai Fujikura was born in 1977 in Osaka, Japan. He was fifteen when he moved to UK to complete his secondary education. His studies continued in college, where, during his sophomore year, he won the Serocki International Composers Competition. Since then, he has been awarded many other important prices including the Royal Philharmonic Society Award, Otaka Prize, Akutagawa Composition Award, WIRED Audi Innovation Award, the Paul Hindemith Prize, and The Silver Lion Award from Venice Biennale 2017. His works include operas, orchestral pieces, ensemble works, chamber music, and film scores.

Having received numerous international co-commissions, Dai Fujikura’s music has been performed in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. He recently held the composer-in-residence position at Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. He has received two BBC Proms commissions, his “Double Bass Concerto” was premiered by the London Sinfonietta, and in 2013 the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave the UK premiere of his “Atom”. Suntory Hall hosted a portrait concert of his orchestral music in 2012. Fujikura’s “Tocar y Luchar” was premiered under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel with the SimĂłn BolĂ­var Youth Orchestra in Venezuela in 2011.

Fujikura has also received performances and commissions from Bamberg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, among many others. He has collaborated with Ensemble Modern, Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Oslo Sinfonietta, Asko Ensemble, Klangforum Wien, and Bit20 Ensemble. Ultraschall Berlin, Lucerne Festival, Salzburg Festival, Punkt Festival, Spoleto Festival, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and Tanglewood Festival have all programmed his music, and his works have been conducted by many conductors including Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott, Kazuki Yamada, Martyn Brabbins, Peter Rundel, and Alexander Liebreich.

Dai Fujikura’s first opera Solaris, a co-commission by Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Lausanne, Ircam-Centre Pompidou, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, had its world premiere in Paris 2015. The multimedia production which included dance, electronics, and 3D film was directed by Saburo Teshigawara who also wrote the libretto. The opera is based Stanisław Lem’s famous science fiction novel of the same name. Theatre Augusburg will present a new production of Solaris for the German premiere in May 2018.

Fujikura’s debut solo album, Secret Forest was produced by NMC Recordings in 2012. Since then, he’s had numerous albums produced including Mirrors which features four of his orchestral works, Ice, on the Kairos label, and most recently, my letter to the world, named for his song cycle, which he produced on his own label, Minabel in collaboration with SONY Japan. For a complete list of his recordings, visit

Fujikura also has strong connections to the experimental pop/jazz/improvisation world. His co-composition with Ryuichi Sakamoto, peripheral movement for electronics, premiered in Hakuju Hall in Japan in 2013, and his collaborative works with David Sylvian were recorded for Sylvian’s album Died in the Wool. Jan Bang released an album on Jazzland records, which featured Fujikura’s collaborations with Jan Bang and Sidsel Endresen.

Recently, Dai has been named the artistic director of the Born Creative Festival in Tokyo Metropolitan Theater for 2017. He will take the positions of composer-in-residence at the Orchestre national d’ĂŽle-de-France, and artist-in-residence at The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo beginning in 2017. He is currently​ preparing for his second opera, The Gold-Bug, which will premiere in March 2018 in Basel. His orchestra work, Glorious Clouds which was co-commissioned by Nagoya Philharmonic, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, and Orchestre national d’ĂŽle-de-France, will be premiered in Japan in 2017, followed performances France and Germany.

Dai Fujikura is published by Ricordi Berlin.


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