Youth Leader

Student conductor Chuhei Iwasaki leads his 'Young Prague' Chamber Ensemble (Komorní Ansámbl Mladých Praha).

He wanted to conduct, so he formed an orchestra. He’s 25.

If you see Chuhei Iwasaki walking down the street with his friends, he looks like any other lively Czech student, except he’s rather slender, and from Japan. Before a concert at The Dvořák Museum, he goofs around with his friends, straightening one boy’s necktie, joking with the girls, checking his mobile and stashing it in a pocket.

But when the concert starts, it’s not some grey-haired musicians, but these mostly-teenagers who file to the music stands. And Chuhei Iwasaki accompanies them – to the conductor’s podium.

He looks out at his student musician friends, gathers their careful attention, and raises his hands to the downbeat. The beautiful music begins.

This evening, marking the Museum’s opening of a new exhibition of Dvořák memorabilia, Mr Iwasaki’s “Young Prague” Chamber Ensemble (Komorní Ansámbl Mladých Praha) performs classic Dvořák rearranged in a new way by the orchestra’s founder. The Scherzo from Symphony No 9 is arranged for piano – four hands; and the Largo movement is presented with piano and flugelhorn, accompanied by the 16 other musicians in the orchestra.

Opus Osm

Chuhei Iwasaki (center) relaxes with orchestra members just before the concert begins.

The young conductor came to study at The Prague Conservatory in 2010 and is now in his fourth year, concentrating on conducting, violin, and composing. “At that time I had the chance to enter a competition,” he tells Opus Osm, “and I needed an orchestra. So I asked some teachers and some students” and the orchestra was formed. Currently the group performs about once a month, mainly “neo-classic” pieces, he says, many arranged just for this orchestra and string quartet.

“Chuhei Iwasaki is a very gifted student,” Aleš Kaňka, deputy director of Prague Conservatory explains in response to our request for more information. “Yes, he started his orchestra himself. Of course, our school cannot give him any financial support, but he is allowed to rehearse with his orchestra in the school rooms.” Mr Kaňka says to his knowledge Mr Iwasaki is not the first student of composition who established his own orchestra during study. “Nevertheless,” he explains, “such ensembles usually have a short life. We will see how it will be in this case.”

Indeed, Mr Iwasaki is approaching his final studies at the Conservatory, so what’s next for him? “I’m a little nervous because I have to take [admission] exams to get into the Academy of Music next year,” he confesses. In what seems to us an ironic statement he adds, “I hope I will pass.”

He did.

You can hear concerts by the Young Prague Chamber Ensemble April 11 and May 27 when part of the orchestra accompanies students’ graduation concerts. The full orchestra is scheduled to perform June 18 at the Prague Conservatory Concert Hall in a program of contemporary Czech composers Oldřich Flosman, Zdeněk Lukáš, Jiří Gemrot, and Jiří Teml. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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