Eiji Hashimoto was a virtuoso and scholar of the harpsichord

Eiji Hashimoto

Eiji Hashimoto is remembered by his students and colleagues as as a brilliant performer, a distinguished scholar of baroque music and a dedicated teacher of the harpsichord.

Mr. Hashimoto died in Cincinnati on Jan. 14 at the age of 89.

“His legacy is great,” said Michael Unger, associate professor of organ and harpsichord at CCM. “He had a strong reputation in the harpsichord world, and he leaves behind a rich legacy among his former colleagues and students at CCM. His name is still remembered well for his long and distinguished work at CCM as a teacher, harpsichordist and director of ensembles dedicated to eighteenth-century music.”

In 1968, while on a concert tour of the United States, Mr. Hashimoto, a native of Japan, was invited by the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music to establish a harpsichord program at the school. He served for 33 years on the faculty until 2001, when he became professor emeritus.

Quiet and unassuming, Mr. Hashimoto built a distinguished academic and performing career over three decades. As a soloist, he dazzled audiences in more than 50 international tours, and made numerous recordings in the U.S. and Japan. His own editions of baroque music for the keyboard are highly regarded.

Between 1968 and 1986, Mr. Hashimoto performed many times with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as a guest artist and soloist. In the ’80s, he was the orchestra’s official harpsichordist under the tenure of music director Michael Gielen, and performed J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with him in Music Hall.

Mr. Hashimoto also performed under maestros Max Rudolf and Thomas Schippers, as well as at the Cincinnati May Festival under the legendary Robert Shaw. He recalled to me in an interview that Schippers loved 18th-century music and “needed me all the time” for Handel and Bach oratorios and concerti grossi. He also performed a contemporary harpsichord work by Ned Rorem during that time.

Upon his retirement from CCM, he performed — and conducted from the keyboard — one of his signature pieces, J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, which is known for its dazzling and lengthy cadenza for the harpsichord. For the artist, who had played it more than 100 times, it was “a spectacularly difficult display” of very fast runs and breathtaking passagework.

As an Artist-in-Residence at CCM, Mr. Hashimoto taught harpsichord and courses in the interpretation and performance of baroque music. He also began a baroque performance workshop at CCM that evolved into the Ensemble for Eighteenth Century Music, which toured internationally and recorded several albums of works by the sons of J.S. Bach, Luigi Boccherini and Joseph Haydn.

Kathryn Woolley, violinist, Professor Eiji Hashimoto and Maria Molina, violist, after performing Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat Major together in 1993.

Kathryn Woolley, violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony, was a member of the Ensemble for Eighteenth Century Music while a student at CCM, and remembers him leading from the keyboard.

“He taught the group his knowledge of baroque music and style, and this information has stayed with me and helped me in my professional career as a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where we often perform baroque music in the baroque style,” said Woolley. “He was often the harpsichord soloist for our concerts at CCM and when he played, it was always so beautifully and artfully performed.”

When Woolley was offered the chance to perform as concertmaster, she was made even more aware of the all of the intricacies that were involved in preparing a piece of baroque music, she said.

One of her favorite memories was the ensemble’s tour to Monterrey, Mexico in 1993, which was “a spectacular musical success for us all. We were welcomed very warmly to the city,” she said.

Mr. Hashimoto was born in Tokyo in 1931, and from an early age, was noted for his talent. In the ’40s, he performed as organist on music programs aired by NHK, the national broadcast station of Japan. He graduated from the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, and won a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He completed a graduate degree at the University of Chicago, and earned another graduate degree in performance at Yale University, where he studied with the renowned harpsichordist, Ralph Kirkpatrick.

In 1964, he returned to Japan to teach at the Toho-Gakuen School of Music and tour as a performer. One of his concerts was attended by the French Cultural Attaché. That led to him being awarded a grant from the French government to conduct musicological research in Paris.

In 1967, the esteemed pianist Rudolf Serkin invited Mr. Hashimoto to come to the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. From there, he made a recital tour to New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Cincinnati. The day after his Cincinnati recital, then-dean Jack Watson offered him a job.

Mr. Hashimoto was twice awarded research grants by the Rockefeller Foundation for residencies in Bellagio, Italy. He published and edited books on performance practice and critical editions of music, including works by C.P.E. Bach, J.B. Loeillet and 190 Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti—which continued the work of his mentor, Ralph Kirkpatrick.

I was privileged to have studied harpsichord briefly with Mr. Hashimoto, and I found him a warm teacher and a technical perfectionist. He also had a poetic spirit, and conveyed that artistry when he played. He told me just before his retirement that he felt that historically-correct performing groups were so preoccupied with knowledge, that they forgot their own heart.

“It’s stylistically correct, but it’s boring. When I present concerts, my goal is to entertain audiences, to inspire them,” he said.

Mr. Hashimoto is survived by his wife, Ruth Hashimoto; his three children: Christine Merritt, Ken Hashimoto, and Erica Hashimoto; and five granddaughters.

A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. To read his obituary, click here.

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