After graduating from Musashino Academia Musicae Tokyo in 1980 Kenji Otani initially joined the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus as a singer. From 1983 he spent several years in Europe, mainly in Sweden, Germany and Great Britain, to study conducting with Erik Erikson, Helmut Rilling and Wolfgang Schafer.
Having acquired a diploma of the choir conducting department at the College of Music and Performing Arts Frankfurt/Main (Germany) in 1989, he returned to Japan and in the same year took for the first time part in the festival “Music Today” ? supervised by Toru Takemitsu. One year later, he participated in the festival “Music of the 20th Century” held by Suntory Music Foundation, where he attracted high attention especially as a conductor for choral and chamber music.
From 1990, he accompanied the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus as conductor in residence, and he made his debut in 1991 with the 127th Regular Concert of Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus.
Right after the foundation of Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa in 1992, the ensemble’s head Hiroyuki Iwaki appointed him to an affiliated choir master, a collaboration, which he kept continuing until 2001. Afterwards he took part in several of Japan’s major music festivals like Izumi Hall Series “Travelling to the Future of Music” and Suntory Music Foundation’s “Summer Festival” as conductor for Choral and Chamber Music. In 2001 he was invited by the Korea National Philharmonic Chorus as a guest conductor and introduced various contemporary Japanese compositions among the Korean audience. As one highlight of his career, he conducted the “Leipzig Ancient Music Orchestra” (Germany) in 1998, were his performance obtained high reputation within the local newspapers. In 1999 he conducted J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion”, and all cantatas of “Christmas Oratorio” on the occasion of Bach’s 250th Death Memorial in 2000.
As choir master he headed the opera productions “LIFE” by Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Hasekura Tsunenaga ” by Akira Miyoshi, and ”El・Ninjo” by John Adams.
Kenji Otani’s activities are spanning a wide and manifold repertoire, from the middle ages to contemporary music, which made him become one of the most acknowledged conductors of the current Japanese music scene.
At present, Otani works as a guest conductor of NHK Children’s Choir, as conductor of Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, and as a professor at Kwassui Women’s College Music Research Department.

Major Awards

  • 1990 Muramatsu Award

■NHK FM “Viva! Chorus” personality (Sunday 7:20~8:10)



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