Acclaimed worldwide for his imagination and sensitivity, composer-pianist Motoki Hirai makes a welcome return to Cadogan Hall.

Content by Lisa Peacock Concert Management

Acclaimed worldwide for his imagination and sensitivity, Motoki Hirai has appeared in the music capitals of the Far East, America and Europe, performing regularly in prestigious venues including Wigmore Hall (London), Royal Concertgebouw (Amsterdam) and Carnegie Hall (New York). Motoki has given performances in Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, UK, USA, the Caribbean, and his native Japan.

Highlights of the current season and beyond include solo recitals in Carnegie Hall (NY), Royal Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), Barbican Centre, St Martin-in-the-Fields (London), La Folle Journée, Ginza Oji Hall and Kioi Hall (Tokyo) and concerto performances with orchestras such as Czech Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra as well as concert tours across the glove.

Whilst being a leading interpreter of the standard repertoire for piano solo, Motoki is equally at home with chamber music and lieder, shedding an inspiring and personal light on music from all periods. Since 1991, Motoki has collaborated with artists including Vilnius String Quartet, Michael Cox, Kalman Berkes, Barry Craft, John Pearce, Doudou N’Diaye Rose and his father, the celebrated cellist Takeichiro Hirai, whom Pablo Casals designated as his successor.

As a composer, Motoki has been commissioned to write new works for international artists in various fields which were performed and premièred in venues such as Carnegie Hall (NY); National Cherry Blossom Festival (Washington, D.C.); Southbank Centre, Barbican Centre, Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, St John’s Smith Square, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Duke’s Hall, Chelsea Festival, Dulwich Festival, Unicorn Theatre, Chelsea Flower Show (London); Brookes Festival 2014, Pegasus Theatre (Oxford); St. George’s (Bristol); Eden Project (Cornwall); Lincoln Cathedral (Lincolnshire); Canongate Kirk (Edinburgh); Smetana Hall (Prague); Cultural Summer Festival (Bratislava); Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris (Paris); Expo Milano 2015 (Milan); Auditori Pau Casals (Barcelona); Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, Auditorium in Haifa Museum of Art (Israel); Al-Kasaba Theatre (Palestine); Théâtre National Daniel Sorano (Dakar); as well as La Folle Journée 2016, Tokyo Opera City, and NHK Hall (Japan).

In 1994, he was the guest artist at the Piano Convention in Nagano, Japan, where he gave a solo recital with a programme exclusively of his own works. As part of 2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges, Motoki gave a highly successful recital on Europe Day at St. John’s Smith Square in London, where he included the world première of his own composition ‘Scenes from a Native Land’, which was repeated in Tokyo the following year, supported by European Union (EU).

To commemorate the centenary of Grieg’s death in 2007, Motoki premièred his own piano work ‘Hommage à Grieg’ in venues such as Wigmore Hall (London) and Tsuda Hall (Tokyo), in performances which were critically acclaimed by the press internationally including the Norwegian leading newspaper Aftenposten
In celebration of Chopin’s bicentennial in 2010, Motoki Hirai published his piano composition ‘Hommage à Chopin’ (both solo and duet versions). His music has also been used in films such as ‘Voice’ (2004) and ‘The Emperor’s Tram Girls’ (2005).


Born in Tokyo in 1973 into a highly gifted musical family, Motoki studied piano and composition with his grandfather, the eminent composer Kozaburo Y. Hirai (who studied with Mahler’s noted disciple and conductor Klaus Pringsheim), and violin with his grandmother. Since his first professional appearance at the age of 13 playing his own piano works to great critical acclaim, he has been highly active in both performance and composition. After reading philosophy and aesthetics at Keio University in Tokyo, Motoki came to London in 1996 to study at the Royal Academy of Music, and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and City University. His teachers have included Frank Wibaut, Dominique Merlet, James Gibb, Patsy Toh and Joseph Seiger.

Over the years, Motoki Hirai has performed for the promotion of world peace and for people in need worldwide in association with organizations such as the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Japan Society, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Red Cross, Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Tohoku Earthquake Fukushima Orphans Fund, UNESCO and UNICEF. In 2010 Motoki was invited to Lithuania to give a charity concert, commemorating Sempo (Chiune) Sugihara who saved the lives of over 6,000 Polish Jews during World War II.

Since the Earthquake and Tsunami devastated Tohoku, Japan on 11 March 2011 (which, by a sad coincidence, was his birthday), Motoki has been giving a series of charity concerts and recitals for fundraising, supported by Steinway & Sons amongst others, across the UK, Europe, US as well as the most affected areas in Tohoku, Japan. So far, he has organized and participated in over 30 charity performances, raising over £80,000. In October 2011, he premièred his new composition ‘Grace and Hope’ for solo piano, dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Tsunami in his Wigmore Hall recital. The following month he gave a Japan première of the piece in Miyagi prefecture, close to the epicenter.  Since then, he has re-visited Tohoku to give concerts for children at several primary and secondary schools.

As an artistic emissary of the Japanese government, Motoki has visited France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, UK, Romania, Oman, Senegal, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Malaysia amongst others since 1994. He has also been involved in fascinating educational programmes to promote Japanese art and culture across the world, such as the ‘World of Japanese Picture Books – brought to life through Reading and Music” project (2007- ) as artistic director, producer and composer.

Motoki has broadcast internationally on radio and television (Classic FM, BBC, ITV and NHK) and has made a number of recordings on CD.


Motoki Hirai, piano Helping Children with Cancer

Thursday 27 September 7.30pm

Alongside standard repertoire, Motoki will premiere a new work which he composed for the cultural and educational project The Fascinating World of Folklore and Stories – Brought to Life through Reading and Music, which is planned to be introduced at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

He has been partnering up with The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity since 2014 to give young cancer patients and their families hope through music.

J.S. Bach Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826
Beethoven 6 Bagatelles, Op. 126
Motoki Hirai 15 Folktale Pieces (2018) (world premiere)
Schubert/Hirai Am Meer, D. 957 No. 12 (world premiere)
Schubert/Godowsky Morgengruß, D. 795 No. 8
Schubert/Liszt Ständchen (Serenade), D. 957 No. 4
Chopin/Liszt Maiden’s Wish
Chopin/Liszt Spring
Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14

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