Masuko Ushioda, Violin solo – Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hiroyuki Iwaki – Hollywood Bowl – August 6, 1968 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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Something special, rare and historic this week (as it seems to be a lot lately) – the celebrated Japanese violinist and pedagogue Masuko Ushioda, accompanied by the L.A. Philharmonic, guest conducted by Hiroyuki Iwaki in music of Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak in concert at The Hollywood Bowl’s 1968 season.
Starting the concert with the Introduction and Wedding Procession from Coq d’Or by Rimsky-Korsakov. The orchestra is joined by Masuko Ushioda in a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major op. 35 and concludes with a performance of Dvorak’s Symphony Number 8 in G Major. It was recorded on August 6, 1968 – never broadcast and long-thought lost and destroyed.
At age 14, Masuko Ushioda received widespread attention by winning First Prize in the Mainichi Competition, the most prestigious event of that kind in Japan. This was followed by high school years in which she juggled many concerts and her musical studies at Toho. In 1961, the Russian violinist Mikhail Vaiman, who was well known in Japan, was asked to invite two young Japanese students to work with him at the Leningrad Conservatory as part of its centenary celebration. Ushioda and Teiko Maehashi went there that August. She stayed for more than two years.
Ushioda competed in the 1963 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels and won sixth prize. She continued her studies afterwards with Joseph Szigeti in Switzerland, where he then lived. Her life there centered around her lessons and she immersed herself in yet another new culture. She was already very active as a soloist, primarily in Europe and Japan.
In 1966, she won silver medal in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. There, she met Laurence Lesser (fourth prize winner in cello), whom she married later on. As a result of her victory, Ushioda embarked on an international life as a violin soloist, while maintaining her link to Szigeti and “home” in Switzerland. She came to the U.S. for three summers beginning in 1967 to participate in the Marlboro Music Festival.
In 1974, Ushioda and her husband Laurence Lesser were invited by then President Gunther Schuller to join the faculty of New England Conservatory. Over 39 years, Ushioda taught a total of 140 students at NEC.
Ushioda’s late career was a balance of family, concertizing, and teaching. She made regular trips to Japan – for solo appearances and also as one of the concertmasters of the Saito Kinen Orchestra and the Mito Chamber Orchestra. Ushioda’s last trip to Japan, to play in Mito, was in October 2012. On November 6, 2012, shortly after her return home, she was given a diagnosis of acute leukemia. While battling this disease she still taught as much as possible, inviting students one-by-one for bedside lessons. She died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston on May 28, 2013.