Concert Preview: Erika Aoki Senior Recital

The semester may be coming to a close, but there is another concert yet on the Oberlin horizon. On Sunday May 2 at 2:30 pm, violinist Erika Aoki will present four distinctive works on her senior recital, a live-streamed concert when she hopes audiences will be able to virtually enjoy the musical collaborations as they take place onstage.

Three of the four works feature collaborative musicians: pianist Leo Choi on Benjamin Britten’s Suite, cellist Drew Dansby on Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, and pianist Natsumi Osborn on Ravel’s Sonata No. 2. Aoki will also perform Eugène Ysaÿe’s solo Sonata No. 5. 

“Ravel is one of my favorite composers,” Aoki said during a recent interview, “along with impressionist and neoclassical music from that era.” It’s fitting, then, that her program will feature two works by the composer. Those choices stem both from a simultaneous love for each piece and an anticipation for the collaboration that will ensue. 

Aoki and Dansby, who are good friends, have played in the same string quartet during this academic year. Their choice to program the duet was a spontaneous decision born out of end-of-semester excitement, just one week before the performance.

The Violin Sonata is a different story. “I didn’t like this piece when I first heard it years ago, but when I recently listened to it again, I found it refreshing,” Aoki said. “I also wanted to play it with my friend.” She first brought the sonata to Osborn last fall, and they have been rehearsing it ever since. “Throughout the process,” Aoki said, “we’ve grown so much as musicians.”

Aoki and Choi’s performance of the Britten Suite should open the concert brilliantly. Evoking a wide range of orchestral colors, the piece is demanding for both instruments. However, Aoki’s captivating and commanding instincts are sure to permeate the performance and set a high bar for the rest of the recital.

Finally, Aoki will present one of Ysaye’s lesser-performed pieces. A challenging piece in two movements, Sonata No. 5 will allow the audience to celebrate Aoki’s growth as a soloist over her college years.

Aoki said she feels more attached to her senior recital because of her deliberate choices in programming. “On my junior recital I was definitely thinking more about playing the right notes, whereas this year, it’s more about being present onstage and enjoying myself.”

Performing live is something we’ve lost during the pandemic, and we’ve certainly missed collaborating with colleagues and friends. However, the violinist intends to make up for lost time during her recital. “There’s such beauty in playing with other people,” Aoki remarked with a smile. “It brings so much joy and I hope listeners will be able to experience that during the performance.”

Watch a livestream of her performance here.

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