Orchestra’s outer space Beethoven performance leaves legendary conductor in tears

1 December 2022, 10:51 | Updated: 1 December 2022, 15:18

Orchestra’s outer space Beethoven performance leaves legendary conductor in tears
Orchestra’s outer space Beethoven performance leaves legendary conductor in tears. Picture: Seiji Ozawa/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

In a historic first, an orchestra and the music of Beethoven resonated in outer space…

A legendary Japanese conductor was left in tears following a performance of Beethoven which was broadcast live to outer space.

Seiji Ozawa, aged 87, returned for the first time in four years to lead the Saito Kinen Orchestra, in a world-first performance given in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ Overture was broadcast live to outer space, for JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata on the International Space Station (ISS).

“I believe that this project will give us courage and hope for those of us who live in difficult times,” Ozawa said in a statement. “Music has the power to connect people’s hearts, transcending language, borders, races, and the atmosphere.

“I am very happy to be able to realize such an amazing project with JAXA… I am very much looking forward to meeting Mr. Wakata, who is now in space. I wonder what music sounds like in space.”

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At the end of the performance (watch a clip above), the renowned maestro breaks down in tears, overwhelmed by the music.

The performance, which took place on Wednesday 23 November at Kissei Bunka Hall in Matsumoto, was part of the ‘One Earth Mission - Unite with Music’ joint initiative planned by Ozawa, the SKO and JAXA.

Astronaust Koichi Wakata, who heard the Beethoven concert from the ISS, said: “This is my fifth stay in space, from where I gaze at my home of Earth. [And] I have been given the good fortune of listening to an orchestra performance from Earth while I am here at ISS.

“I sense that this has the power to unite the world. As we live in an era with many challenges, I believe that this project will impart courage and hope.”

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Ozawa is best known for his music director positions at the San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he stood at the helm of for 29 years.

He founded the SKO in September 1984 following the death of Hideo Saito, co-founder of the Toho Gakuen School of Music. The orchestra has released many recordings to date, and in 2016 won the 58th Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.