“Thank you for calling. This is the Japan branch of Youko Touma Offices.
“Unfortunately, our business operations are suspended at present.”
“If this is an urgent matter, please call our headquarters in Europe. The number is…”
“How long are things going to be suspended, Miyoko-san…?”
It had only lasted a few seconds, but when I thought about the cost of that wasted international call to Japan, my hand felt hopelessly heavy as I set the receiver down.
From the fact that I had tried this ten times in a row, and gotten the answering machine every time, for nearly a month, it seemed as though the Japan branch weren’t carrying out any business at all.
…Granted, I started to get that sense vaguely after the third call or so.
It had already been a month since I heard the title of that piece, wrung from Mom’s throat…
I was still spending all my time looking for an orchestra to play it with me.
In all likelihood, the fact that I was the one looking for it was the reason it kept taking up all my time.
In the beginning, I made use of breaks between lessons, calling the offices of every single orchestra I found in the phone directory, hoping to negotiate… only to be disappointed.
Actually, the fact that my discussions weren’t getting anywhere was starting to become a reputation problem for Youko Touma Offices.
…How could everyone else just talk to people they didn’t know, without seeing their faces, so easily? I didn’t understand that world at all.
After that, I went the email route.
I spent three days setting up a computer. Three days setting up email and internet. Three more days thinking about the content of my letter.
I sent that email, which had taken me almost ten days to construct, to the email addresses of every orchestra I found online… and received a storm of questions in response.
Questions about money, scheduling, venues—it took me another three days to answer, and what came back then was a storm of doubts, anger, and refusals.
…Apparently, the Japanese “little by little” way of doing things wasn’t very well understood here.
“Ah, um… Emma-san? It’s me, Kazusa.”
And after I’d wasted about half a month through all of that, the staff at the headquarters couldn’t just stand by and watch any more, and they singlehandedly took on the discussions with orchestras.
“Yeah, I was calling about… Ah, yeah, that… Did you find any?”
That said, this woman, Emma Bergen, who was really just an assistant to Mom, didn’t have the knowledge or judgment that Miyoko from the Japanese branch had.
As a result, discussions were still rough going, and at present, the number of orchestras sitting at the negotiation table was…
“Ah… Still not even one, huh.”
As you see.
“Yes, yes… Thanks. If you make any more headway, let me know.”
This whole thing had brought home to me…
That doing performances in Japan had given me some unconscious mistaken impressions.
“Kazusa Touma,” the name of some runaway pianist, hadn’t permeated here at all.
In fact, the title of “Youko Touma’s daughter” didn’t get me anywhere, either.
The people here, when it came to music, took no notice of “second-generation talent” as a selling point. This world was entirely a meritocracy.
Driven to my wits’ end by all this, I found myself on the verge of dirtying my hands with a forbidden last resort.
My most detested, tasteless method—to make use of the country where my flashy signboards, “Japanese pianist,” “Youko Touma’s daughter,” made me stand out the most.
“Right, the editor-in-chief at Ensemble… I’m sure I had a business card…”
Going by way of the Japan branch, I would make a contract with a Japanese orchestra, call them to Vienna, and hold a concert with a purely Japanese configuration…
“…What am I saying? It’s Kaiou, obviously…”
I had been driven to the point of risking a deficit… no, of planning a show that was guaranteed to end in a deficit.
By whatever means necessary, I had play this for Mom. I had to play clôture.
Because it just might be…
Just as I was getting lost in that thought, my laptop screen showed that I had received an email.
I checked the email address, and found that it was from a local orchestra, a five-minute walk from here—the first orchestra I’d emailed, though I never received a reply.
But as soon as I opened the email, my expectations high, it shot them right back down.
The writing itself was perfectly polite, but I could already tell that it was a refusal.
And, beneath that polite refusal…
Was attached a letter of introduction to a different orchestra.
“…The Franz Dupré Orchestra?”
“…Franz Dupré accepted you?”
As I had imagined…
The moment Mom heard the name of the orchestra, she stiffened.
“So, what are you doing to do?”
“I’m gonna do it. It’s what you want, right?”
“But, Franz? …You hate him.”
A French conductor, based in Paris.
He was in his mid thirties. His ability was certified, even in France, where the competition was fierce.
The regular performances that he led were always to a full house. In fact, he was booked solid for the next year. He could be called a spirited conductor, who had well and truly hit his stride.
With his international position and reputation, he was a figure with whom Kazusa Touma, some random Asian pianist, could never compare.
“I said I’m gonna do it, and I am. …Though I’m not budging on the ‘don’t lay one finger on me’ clause in my contract terms.”
…He was also a former lover of Mom’s.
And a sleazebag, who had tried to make a move on me before.
The obstructions to this contract could be summarized in that one thing.
“Well, that probably won’t be a problem. He turns into a different person once a concert starts.”
“…Can I trust you on that?”
“Yes, there’s no question. There’s no way he would try to lay a hand on you this time, anyway. The fact that this whole thing got pulled together is probably…”
“Never mind. So, when is the concert?”
“Uh… September 28th.”
“Two months away…”
“That was the only available day. They even made a note with the promoter and cancelled a performance in New York.”
The fact that I had managed to pin down the Franz Dupré Orchestra before the end of the year was evidently nothing short of miraculous.
That was what Emma had said, after three speechless minutes on the phone.
“All right. I’ll be sure to live long enough for that. Come hell or high water.”
“…Yeah, do that. It’ll be the best concert I’ve ever put on.”
Two months left, in any case.
I would master clôture by then, whatever it took.
I would give that to Mom.
I would make it in time, by whatever means necessary…
“Thanks… old man. Sorry I have to go before you do.”