Kurt Muroki was a sixth-grade student at Lihikai Elementary School when he experienced an epiphany. Attending a concert given by violinists of the Suzuki method, he felt inspired and knew that he was destined to pursue a career in classical music.
“They came to Lihikai and performed on stage, and the performance really struck me,” remembers Muroki. “I said, that’s what I want to do. That was it. From that moment I knew what I wanted to do in life and I never looked back. It’s what I always wanted to do. »
Muroki, a graduate of Baldwin High School, returns to Maui to perform at the 2022 Maui Classical Music Festival which begins Friday and ends May 20.
A double bass teacher at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Muroki won the Honolulu Symphony Young Artists competition and was the first bassist to win the New World Symphony concerto competition. A graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, he then performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Tokyo Opera Nomori and the New York City Ballet, as well as collaborating with members of the Guarneri, Juilliard, Tokyo and Orion quartets, and Ensemble Wein-Berlin.
Muroki also cites attending concerts at the former Kapalua Music Festival, which later became the Maui Classical Music Festival, as an early inspiration.
“I was influenced by the Kapalua Music Festival in the 80s and early 90s”, he explained. “If it wasn’t for Suzuki players and Maui fiddlers and performing with the Maui Symphony and Kapalua Festival with world-class musical creation on Maui, forget it.”
Performed at historic churches around Maui, the festival opens at 7 p.m. Friday at Makawao Union Church, with a “Verve and virtuosity” program featuring works by Gliere, Bootsini and Dvorak.
The “Viennese Splendor” program at 7 p.m. Monday at Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena features music by Mozart, Schubert and Brahms.
The musicians then head to the Congregational Church of Hana in Wananalua on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for a “Hana Community Concert” of works by Mozart and Dvoark.
A “Romantic Outings” a concert featuring works by Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak is scheduled for May 20 at 7 p.m. at Keawala’i Congregational Church.
The church will also host the “Fortieth Festival Finale” at 3 p.m. on May 22 with performances of music by Bassi, Mozart, Chopin, Grieg, Saint-Saëns and Schubert.
Performing musicians include violinists Benny Kim, Fabiola Kim and Sarah Oates; cellist Amir Eldan; pianists Yaron Kohlberg and Anna Polonsky; clarinetist Yoonah Kim; violist Yizhak Schotten; and pianist Katherine Collier. Schotten and Collier have been the musical directors of the Maui Classical Music Festival since its inception 40 years ago.
“It’s amazing to come home” says Muroki, who will play Bootsini first “Grand Duo Concertante for violin, double bass and piano”, with Fabiola Kim and Polonsky on Friday.
Known as the “Paganini of the double bass”, Bootsini has created its “Grand Duo Concertante” in Paris in 1880. An intimate friend of Giuseppe Verdi, he had been chosen by Verdi to direct the creation of his opera “Aida” in Cairo in 1871.
“Bottesini was an instant star because he was a violinist first”, Muroki noted. “He was a fantastic musician, very elegant and lyrical. This music is very difficult for me.
by Dvorak “Bass Quintet in G, Op. 77″ Wednesdays at Hana and May 20 at Makena features Muroki with Benny Kim, Oates, Schotten and Eldan.
“This is probably the most difficult chamber music that Dvorak has written” Muroki said. “It’s really very complicated, a monumental piece. One of my favorites.”
The festival closes with Schubert “Quintet for Strings and Piano in A, Op. 114,” known as “The trout quintet.” One of the most famous of all piano quintets, “he wrote it in less than three weeks”, Muroki said. “What an incredibly interesting piece. I love the Trout and Dvorak quartet.
Besides his acclaimed classical performances, Muroki has also performed with Sting, The Who and Peter Gabriel. He supported Sting on CBS “The first show.”
“A few months later, I played a program entirely dedicated to Bach and Sting was in the audience”, he called back. “He introduced himself, ‘Hi, I’m Sting.’ We had a nice conversation. He likes baroque music.
Muroki performed with the Juilliard Orchestra with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who at a concert at Carnegie Hall, and with Gabriel on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Among the rave reviews Muroki received, The Washington Post praised: “The highlight was a Rossini Duo for cello and double bass. Cellists are known for their technical agility, but bass players are rarely challenged in this way, and Muroki has made it surprisingly easy. The Boston Globe notes: “The performance of Schubert’s “The Trout” quintet, which closed the concert (with double bass player Kurt Muroki joining the ensemble), was just about perfect.”
The 2022 Maui Classical Music Festival runs Friday through May 22. The suggested donation is $30 for adults and $10 for students for each concert. A complete program is available at www.mauiclassicalmusicfestival.org.