Ayako Uehara: the small but great pianist who stunned the world

In 2002, Ayako Uehara (上原 彩子) became the first woman (and Japanese citizen) to win the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. She is less than 5 feet tall, yet she played the music of Tchaikovsky with great volume and grandness. People all over the world were stunned by her performance.

She started to play the piano when she was 3 years old, and won the first prize at the 3rd  Ettlingen International Music Competition for Youth, Piano A Section, in Germany.  After that, she won many more competitions. In 2002, she achieved the brilliant feat of winning the 12th Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition: a first for a Japanese citizen and woman.
Since then, she has continued to play with prominent orchestras in many parts of the world. She now has a recording contract with EMI (a first for a Japanese pianist).

She has appeared at music festivals, recitals and on TV, in places such as Austria, France, Germany, Poland, the UK and the US. She plays as a soloist with orchestras under such conductors as Mstislav Rostropovich, Marek Janowski, Kristjan Jarvi, Kenichiro Kobayashi, Kazuhiko Komatsu, Norichika Iimori, and Naoto Otomo.

She toured Japan with both the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Nov.2003, and with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2004. She received a lot of praise for her performances on both tours. On May 5th of that year, she won the highest praise when she made a debut at the Wigmore Recital Hall in London: the European chamber music place. She played there again in June, 2005. In Dec. 2004, she played with the NHK Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit. And she was elected best soloist of the year in 2004. In Oct. of 2005, she had a Japan tour with Lorin Maazel.

She says; I’m happy to see the audience reaction to my performances.
Not only their applause, but also the audience atmosphere influences my performances. That’s why I want to play the piano in various places. When the time comes, I want to arrange my program at a level beyond my presentability, but I haven’t achieved that yet. I feel inspired to do this, and I believe I can play the piano better if I concentrate on my goals.