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Hidemaro Konoye

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Viscount Hidemaro Konoye (近衛 秀麿, Konoe Hidemaro, 18 November 1898—2 June 1973) was a conductor and composer of classical music in Shōwa period Japan. He was the brother of pre-war Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe.

Konoye was born in Kōjimachi, Tokyo as the younger son of Prince Konoe Atsumaro, scion of one of the Five regent houses of the Fujiwara clan. The Konoe clan traditionally provided gagaku muscians to the Imperial Household, and Hidemaro chose to follow the family’s musical tradition, whereas his older brother Fumimaro went into politics.

Konoye attended the Gakushuin Peers School, where he became a close friend of Takashi Inukai. In 1913, he entered the Tokyo University of the Arts, where he specialized in the violin. In 1915, he went to study briefly in Germany to study musical composition, and became a pupil of Kosaku Yamada on his return to Japan. His debut as a conductor was in 1920, with an amateur orchestra led by Toukichi Setoguchi. Konoye returned to Europe for further studies in 1923 in Paris under Vincent d’Indy and Berlin under Franz Schreker. He also studied conducting under Erich Kleiber, and Karl Muck. In 1924, he conducted at the Berlin Philharmonic, and returned to Japan in the fall of the same year.

Konoye co-founded the Japan Symphonic Association in 1925, and the following year became conductor of the orchestra. Konoe later founded the New Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo (the present day NHK Symphony Orchestra), and helped mold the orchestra over a 10 year period into an ensemble that was praised as competitive with many of the better orchestras in Europe.

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