Nobuko Imai Awarded the IVS Golden Alto Clef

Last Sunday (March 19th), viola legend and DVS honorary member Nobuko Imai celebrated her 80th birthday with a festive concert in the recital hall of Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Friends, colleagues, students and admirers (in many combinations) travelled from all over the world to be there. The recital hall had been sold out months in advance, and one literally had to search continent-wide for the very few second-hand tickets from people who ended up not being able to come.

When Nobuko first was invited to appear on stage by the well-spoken concert announcer Sven Arne Tepl, she was greeted with a loud cheer from the audience that would befit a rock star! In response, she gave an epic rendition of Schumann’s Märchenbilder, accompanied by Martijn Willers. No concessions to uninvited constraints of age or time, neither in the sweet slow movements nor in the furiously racing 3rd movement.

Next to a birthday celebration, the key concept of this concert was to bring about a reunion of Nobuko’s many students from all around the world. They were teamed up in ensembles of viola duos, trios and quartets representing Nobuko’s viola classes in Detmold, Geneva, Kronberg, Madrid and Amsterdam. Highly appreciated solistic performances were given as well by her students Veit Hertenstein, Takehiro Konoe and of course Tim Ridout.

A specially delightful “surprise”  reunion came with her former colleagues of the Michelangelo string quartet, Mihaela Martin and Frans Helmersson joining her in a Schubert trio.

After a flowery word of gratitude from the DVS chairman on behalf of the entire Dutch viola community, Nobuko was awarded the Golden Alto Clef, the highest distinction of the International Viola Society (IVS). The President of the IVS Jutta Puchhammer (flown in from Montreal) read a carefully researched summary of Nobuko’s many achievements for the viola in the most global perspective. This took a long time to summarize! Finally, IVS Vice President Karin Dolman proceeded to decorate Nobuko with this unique golden clef, which has only been awarded twice before in the 55-year history of the IVS (prof. Franz Zeyringer in 1988 and dr. David Dalton in 2013).

The celebration was capped off with a joyous rendition of Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg concerto, with a full viola orchestra on stage.

The DVS once again wishes to thank Nobuko Imai for all that she has done for the Dutch viola community throughout almost half a century of teaching and playing here, and we congratulate her with the well deserved IVS Golden Alto Clef award!

Media Coverage:

The IVS published a video impression of this whole event on their YouTube channel:
A plethora of Interviews has also appeared in the press and online media on the occasion of Nobuko’s 80th birthday. Here is a selection:

17/03/2023: Dutch Viola Society (Kristofer G. Skaug)
17/03/2023: The Violin Channel (Heather Kurzbauer)
15/03/2023: Trouw (Stella Vrijmoed)
10/03/2023: NRC (Rahul Gandolahage)
… and finally this one, a very interesting in-depth interview from almost 40 years ago:
27/12/1984: Musicalifeiten (Jan de Kruijff)