Every year the enterprising Music at St Hilda’s – M@SH – holds an annual five-hour marathon, with students and professionals performing electronica, video and contemporary classical compositions. Oddly, last year one of the more conventional performances outshone all else. Or perhaps not so oddly as the performer was Jonathan Powell, an outstanding pianist and champion of neglected pieces of the piano repertoire. This year’s marathon turns out to be similar. Marathons start early which this Nightshift reviewer is not great at and we miss the first performances. We are present for a set of worthy but instantly forgettable standard electrofuzz and grunge noise and also unfortunately we see video art from the Ruskin School of Art that’s so dull it shouldn’t have been allowed through the door. Thankfully the machinery suffers a terminal malfunction, saving us from running out of the building and jumping off Magdelen Bridge. That would have been a pity as we’d have missed OXUS Quartet’s spirited performance of Michael Nyman’s string quartet, with its similarities to his film music for The Draughtsman’s Contract. We like the starring role Nyman gives to the viola, and OXUS’s viola player seizes her moment with vim and vigour. Martyn Harry’s cleverly titled composition ‘Auditorium’ achieves its aim of portraying runners setting off from a stadium and their return by beginning with a Phillip Glass meets Michael Nyman fanfare and ending 30 minutes later with a triumphant peel, a Vangelis moment in Harry’s own words. It’s played by the twelve saxophones of The Northern Saxophone Collective (the name sounds like a Maoist cell), surely more saxophones than it’s decent to be in a room with. They are conducted by the composer and there’s also a section of pre-recorded tape. Initially it’s fascinating and very M@SH, but not for the first time when listening to a Harry composition the fascination ebbs as the piece progresses and leaves us wondering whether this talented composer might consider collaborating with a good editor. So last Marathon it was Jonathan Powell pianism; this time it’s Maki Sekiya pianism putting everything else in the shade. Listening to her second and third sets we are transfixed and kick ourselves for not being in time to hear her first one. In George Crumb’s percussive piece `Apparition’, with former Worcester College head chorister Quinn Obbink valiantly performing the voice part, Sekiya’s precision penetrates the room. But it is her playing of works by Japanese composer Somei Satoh that has us spellbound. The pieces have few notes and Sekiya seems to make each one translucent, partially through the power of her intense stillness at the keyboard. We would love to see her in the barn at Supernormal Festival, if they can get her a decent piano to play. Meanwhile, we reflect that this curate’s egg of an event is building a track record for superb piano performances and wonder, will the magic happen yet again next year.

More information here.


Colin May

The other revelatory experience of the evening was hearing Maki Sekiya play Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Sonatas No1 and No 2. As always with this extraordinary pianist, her technique was astonishing, vividly accurate and totally at the service of the music. She seems to play simultaneously from her heart, her intellect and her soul. Her technical precision is breathtaking and utterly reliable, and yet there is nothing cold or detached about it; it is always at the service of the feeling of the music. The communication to the audience is very direct and everyone I spoke with afterwards agreed. it is also invoking inward experiences and reactions as they attend to the music. Several people have told me that when they hear Maki play it is a spiritual as well as a musical experience. Her dynamics are astonishing in their range. She has a sure sense of the shape and rhythm of these pieces. She often took risks with the sounding of a note and she seems so completely immersed in Shostakovich’s music making and his personal language that I found myself listening to every note and every nuance as if hearing the pieces for the first time even though I know them extremely well. I found that her interpretation and playing lived up completely to my favourite performances from the past. I found myself simply relaxing into her playing and interpretation with utter confidence. Maki also played as an encore a piece by Sergey Pavlenko called La musique à bis that was new to me and which I would dearly love to hear again.

For the complete article, with a review of virtuoso theremin playing by Lydia Kavin, go to


Mel Cooper, from ‘Maki Sekiya Concert” 14th May 2017

Green Templeton College is delighted to announce the appointment of pianist Maki Sekiya as its first Musician in Residence. Maki’s performance at the College last November at very short notice stunned the audience with her consummate musicianship and phenomenal technique… Read full article

Green Templeton College News, 15 March 2017

A weekend of first-rate chamber music was brought to a triumphant conclusion in an afternoon recital by Johanna Messner (‘cello) and Maki Sekiya (piano). The full house – no room for a number of disappointed latecomers without tickets – was treated to a nicely balanced programme of Debussy, Ravel and Janáček leading to a crowning finale in Brahms’s E minor sonata Op. 38. This last was, especially in the expansive opening movement, majestic, thought-provoking Brahms, themes and harmonic progressions being allowed the time to speak and to build a persuasive whole; there was much eloquent beauty of tone from the ‘cello, a subtly graded range of different intensities in the vibrato, smooth and seamless bowing when needed, and powerful, dramatic accents in the more affirmative moments, matched by piano playing of complete technical security and firm conviction in the melodic shaping… Continue Reading

Maki Sekiya (piano) and Johanna Messner (‘cello), Iffley Church Hall, Sunday March 12th, 2017 – reviewed by Jonathan Katz

What can you do to promote a completely unknown musician who, you think, is world class and ready for a world-conquering career? The other night I attended a piano recital in Oxford in an out-of-the way church at the insistent invitation of a friend and I heard some of the most wonderful playing at every level that I have ever heard in my life. It was without any doubt in my experience at the same level of discovering astonishing and near-perfect artistry as the first time you hear Emil Gilels or Sviatoslav Richter or Artur Rubinstein. It made me think that this must be the Clara Schumann of our era. It was of a quality that almost seems to go beyond the instrument and its limitations… Continue Reading

Mel Cooper, from ‘Maki Sekiya: Star of the Future’

“High praise indeed for the wonderful piano playing of Maki Sekiya. From the first note her audience was spellbound…. so remarkable was the range and depth of the emotional projection. She transformed Busoni’s virtuostic piano transcription of J.S.Bach’s violin Chaconne into a gigantic romantic fantasy, full of passion yet with the most delicate contrasts of mood and dynamic. A number of “scenes” from the Schumann Kinderszenen demonstrated the pianist’s magical pianissimo playing, both slow and fast. In a faultless execution of Chopin’s Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante… the polonaise was given a wonderfully exciting performance, fast, dynamic, and in complete contrast to the dreamy andante… in Thomas Adès’ Darknesse visible, Maki gave an excellent performance of a work which suited her perfectly… a church recital in which the sound was not overwhelming but beautifully controlled by this remarkable pianist.”

Peter Billington, May 8, 2016

“The range of her Iffley recital was impressive. After a majestic rendering of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, her selections from Schumann’s Kinderszenen were presented as wonderfully subtle miniatures, with exquisite timing and hushed dynamics, engaging and fresh new readings of these familiar pieces. There followed one of Chopin’s most demanding compositions, the Andante Spianato and grand polonaise, showing Maki to be a consummate virtuoso with a flawless technique over the full dynamic range; the powerful polonaise danced commandingly, but was laced with gossamer filigree of great delicacy. In its own way equally demanding, with its unbelievably fast quiet repeated notes, Thomas Adès’s ‘Darknesse visible’ shimmered like a glass harmonica; she produced exquisite colours in this imaginative re-imagining of Dowland.”

Margaret Bent (All Souls College), May 8, 2016

“I thought the first half was not possible and second half was impossible!”

Audience members at a recital at Dorchester Abbey, September 9, 2015

“a very talented pianist – the standard of which we have rarely heard before” “Maki was absolutely brilliant. In fact I have never heard anyone play like her before. She is a genius I think, and her playing was straight from her heart” “Maki’s performance was outstanding and enthralling” “brilliant playing and great choice of music” “Maki is brilliant and her choice of programme really showed how incredibly versatile a player she is”

Audience members at a recital at Boarstall Tower, September 4, 2015

“A brilliant pianist”

Jessye Norman in the Sheldonian Theatre during the Oxford Literary Festival, March 27, 2015

“most engaging and communicative musicianship which drew the listener into her world… a pianist of such outstanding quality.”

Iffley Music Society concert, March 21 2015, reviewed by Sally Carewe

“She gave a brilliant performance. Prokofiev would literally have been stirred in his grave!”;”The Japanese [Somei Satoh] and Russian [Prokofiev] pieces were quite beautiful and stunning – in that order.”;”Maki was sensational. What a superb pianist with a great technique.”;”it was an exciting and superb performance. Maki is a very accomplished performer and was technically so sure of her chosen programme that we, the audience, could relax and enjoy the music she played for us. What an exciting player. So pleased we could get to hear her last week.”;”Maki was extraordinary. Her performance riveting and unforgettable.”;”Such a beautiful concert last night – fantastically gutsy playing but yet so beautifully phrased and exquisitely voiced. It was a real joy to be there.”;”on a marking system of 1 – 10, I would give 15!”

Audience members at SJE Arts, February 5th 2015

“an extraordinary concert”; “Maki’s fabulous playing”; “an astonishing performance”; “We both were absolutely amazed”; “Maki’s fascinating interpretations”; “quite riveting and astonishing”

Audience members who attended a private concert, October 11, 2014

“[John] Lubbock’s ability to attract some of the world’s most iconic soloists also included Maki Sekiya, a diminutive Japanese pianist who nearly melted the piano with her thrilling performance of Bach’s Piano Concerto in F Minor. She received a cascade of ovations from the audience…”

Oxford Mail, September 19, 2014

“Wonderful playing by Maki with OSJ at the Oxford Literary Festival event on Wednesday. Absolutely divine.”

John Lubbock (artistic director of OSJ) March 28, 2014

“Pianist Maki Sekiya has stolen the show at Philip Pullman’s talk”

Despina Trivoli March 26, 2014 Oxford Literary Festival at Sheldonian Theatre

“Outrageously wonderful. She is a complete master and a wonderful discovery.”

John Lubbock after Maki’s solo recital at the OSJ Dorchester Festival. September 6, 2013

“Everyone without an exception in the audiences were astounded by Maki’s performance and talked only about about her after the concert. The amazing lightness of her touch and the natural musicality of her playing has stayed, and will stay in my mind for the rest of my life!”

Iraida Yusupova, composer, June 2013

“First of all, her playing leaves a breath taking impression with an extraordinary, irrepressible energy which doesn’t know an end. … It seems incredible – where it all comes, from this fragile sensitive appearance of the girl. Another attractive,and rare element especially nowadays about the pianist, is the warmth coming from the inner soul…”

V.G.Rozhnovsky, composer, music critic

“Maki is a musical phenomenon, the nature of which cannot be explained by words”

Alexandre Ilkhovski, cinematographer, director

“Maki is a superb pianist. I discovered her in March this year. If she continues this way, she will be a great musician. For me personally, it is such a joy music making with her.”

Atef Halim, Violinist, 2007

“Her way of playing piano is something very unique, that I had never experienced before. She is capable of listening to herself in totally objective state of mind. A performer of this type in Japan maybe had never existed before.”

Saburo Egawa, audio critic

“Clearly, Maki is a young pianist to watch…”

Classical archives

“The piano prodigy of tremendous rhythm and vitality”

London Evening Standard (when Maki was only eleven)

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