Hiroshima Summit, May 19-21: Pianist Martha Argerich calls for protection of lives beyond nationality

Message to the Chugoku Shimbun

Concerned about young victims due to Russian invasion

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Before the summit meeting of the G7 (The Group of Seven industrialized nations), to be held in Hiroshima in May, the Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Martha Argerich, 81, one of the world’s leading pianists who serves as the city’s Hiroshima Cultural Ambassador. She was concerned about the current situation in which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has claimed the lives of young people sent to the battlefield, and appealed to the leaders of each country that what was important was life, not showing off power.

Ms. Argerich cited the atomic bombings by the U.S. military and the Holocaust (genocide of Jewish people) by Nazi Germany as the two biggest tragedies of the 20th century. She was heartbroken that many people had been killed in horrible ways, and resented we had learned nothing so far from the reality of the ongoing arms race.

When asked about the significance of the Hiroshima Summit, she expressed concern about the use of force in the invasion of Ukraine, saying, “Older people are ordering young people to go (to war), sitting comfortably in offices. Young people have to kill each other though they don’t hate each other.” Mentioning Chiune Sugihara, a diplomat who saved many Jews during World War II by issuing “visas for life,” she said he had defied the organization and saved lives. She urged government officials to consider protecting the life of each person, regardless of nationality.

Originally from Argentina, Ms. Argerich has been invited to perform with renowned orchestras, conductors, and at music festivals. With the idea of “music against crime,” she has also conveyed the preciousness of peace and love for people through her music. In August 2015, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing, she performed with the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra (HSO). At that time, she visited the city of Hiroshima and played, for the first time, the piano left behind by Akiko Kawamoto, a female student who died in the A-bombing at the age of 19, and was deeply moved.

In 2015, she became Peace and Music Ambassador for the HSO, and in 2019, Hiroshima Cultural Ambassador. In 2020, she was scheduled to perform a concerto on an A-bombed piano with the HSO, but had to give up due to the spread of new coronavirus. In this message, she said that she hoped to be able to perform with the HSO again in Hiroshima.

Ms. Argerich responded to the Chugoku Shimbun’s questions via voice recording through Shoji Sato, 72, a staff member at the music office KAJIMOTO (based in Tokyo).

(Originally published on January, 1, 2023)