Kōsaku Yamada

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Kōsaku Yamada
Kosaku Yamada 02.jpg
Kōsaku Yamada, 1956
Born(1886-06-09)June 9, 1886
Tokyo, Japan
DiedDecember 29, 1965(1965-12-29) (aged 79)
Tokyo, Japan
EducationTokyo Music School

Kōsaku Yamada (山田 耕筰, Yamada Kōsaku, 9 June 1886 – 29 December 1965) was a Japanese composer and conductor.[1][2]


In many Western reference books, his name is given as Kôsçak Yamada. During his music study in Berlin from 1910 to 1913, he became annoyed when people laughed at him because the normal transliteration of his first name 'Kōsaku' sounded like the Italian cosa ('what?' or 'thing') plus the German Kuh ('cow'); therefore he chose the transliteration 'Kôsçak Yamada'.[citation needed]


Born in Tokyo, Yamada started his music education at Tokyo Music School in 1904,[3] studying there under German composers August Junker [de] and Heinrich Werkmeister. In 1910, he left Japan for Germany where he enrolled at the Prussian Academy of Arts and learnt composition under Max Bruch and Karl Leopold Wolf[3] and piano under Carl August Heymann-Rheineck,[citation needed] before returning to Japan in late 1913.[4] He travelled to the United States in 1918 for two years. During his stay in Manhattan, New York City, he conducted a temporarily-organized orchestra composed of members of New York Philharmonic and New York Symphony, short before their amalgamation.[5]

Yamada composed about 1,600 pieces of musical works, in which art songs (Lieder) amount to 700 even excluding songs commissioned by schools, municipalities and companies. The songs were performed and recorded by many famous singers such as Kathleen Battle, Ernst Haefliger and Yoshikazu Mera. His opera Kurofune (black ships) is regarded as one of the most famous Japanese operas. His work was heard at the music section of the art competition at the 1936 Summer Olympics.[6]

Yamada in Manhattan, 1918

As a conductor, Yamada made an effort to introduce western orchestral works to Japan. He premiered in Japan of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, Gershwin's An American in Paris, Mosolov's Iron Foundry, Sibelius' Finlandia, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, Johann Strauss II's An der schönen blauen Donau, and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.

Jacques Ibert's Ouverture de fête was dedicated to the Japanese emperor and government for the 2,600th National Foundation Day in 1940 and premiered under the baton of Yamada.

Yamada died at his home in Tokyo of a heart attack on 29 December 1965, and was survived by his wife, Teruko.[1]

Major compositions[edit]


Other stage works

  • Maria Magdalena for ballet, after the drama by M. Maeterlinck (1916) (piano sketches were complete, but are now lost; the sketches were never developed)

Orchestral works

  • Overture in D major (1912)
  • Symphony in F major "Triumph and Peace" (1912)
  • Kurai Tobira, symphonic poem (1913)
  • Madara No Hana, symphonic poem (1913)
  • Choreographic Symphony 'Maria Magdalena' (1918) (written from sketches for a ballet; first performed in Carnegie Hall)
  • Sinfonia "Inno Meiji" (1921)
  • Nagauta Symphony "Tsurukame" for voice, shamisen and orchestra (1934)

Chamber works

  • String Quartet No. 1 in F major
  • String Quartet No. 2 in G major
  • String Quartet No. 3 in C minor
  • Hochzeitsklänge for piano quintet (1913)
  • Chanson triste japonaise for violin and piano (1921)
  • Suite japonaise for violin and piano (1924)
  • Variations on Kono-michi for flute and piano (1930)

Works for piano

  • New Year's Eve (1903)
  • Variationen (1912)
  • The Chimes of the Dawn (1916)
  • Les poèmes à Scriabin (1917)
  • Karatachi-no-hana for piano solo (1928)

Choral works

  • Die Herbstfeier for mixed chorus and orchestra (1912)


  • "Song of Aiyan" (1922)
  • "Chugoku chihō no komoriuta" [Lullaby from the Chugoku Area]
  • "Karatachi no hana"
  • "Pechika"
  • "Kono michi [ja]" [This Road]
  • "Akatombo" [Red Dragonfly] (1927)
  • "Yuu-in"
  • "Sabishiki Yoruno Uta" [Songs of Lonely Night] (1920)



  1. ^ a b "Kosaku Yamada, 79, Composer in Japan". The New York Times. January 1, 1966.
  2. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Yamada, Kōsçak". Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. p. 1925. ISBN 0-02-870240-9.
  3. ^ a b Katayama, Morihide. "Yamada, Koscak" (Extensive biography; recordings). Naxos Records. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  4. ^ Yamada, Kosaku (1999). Jiden wakaki hi no kyōshikyoku 自伝若き日の狂詩曲 [Autobiographical Rhapsody of Young Days] (in Japanese). Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā. p. 150. ISBN 4820557629. OCLC 43742726.
  5. ^ "Japanese Conducts Own Native Works. Koscak Yamada Shows His Skill in Modern Orchestral Tints in Carnegie Hall. His Poetic Songs Also Sung by Clarence Whitehill. Countryman Lauds Japan's Past in the War". The New York Times. October 17, 1918. PDF
  6. ^ "Kōsaku Yamada". Olympedia. Retrieved 13 August 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Herd, Judith Ann. 1996. "Westliche Musik und die Entstehung einer japanischen Avantgarde", translated by Annemarie Guignard and Elisabeth Seebass. In Musik in Japan: Aufsätze zu Aspekten der Musik im heutigen Japan, edited by Silvain Guignard, 219–40. Munich: Iudicium, 1996. ISBN 3-89129-299-6
  • Pacun, David. 2006. "Thus we cultivate our own World, thus we share it with others: Kósçak Yamada's Visit to the United States, 1918–19", American Music 24/1, 67–94.
  • Pacun, David. 2008. "Style and Politics in Kosaku Yamada's Folk Song Arrangements, 1917–1950." In Music of Japan Today edited by E. Michael Richards and Kazuko Tanosaki, (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), 39–54.
  • Kanazawa, Masakata; Yo Akioka. "Yamada, Kōsaku [Kósçak]". Grove Music Online. Retrieved 2008-05-16. (subscription access)
  • "Yamada Kōsaku", Encyclopædia Britannica

External links[edit]