Johnny Weir and Takahiko Kazuka Choose Great Music For Men’s Olympic Figure Skating Competition

Last night, the big story for everyone was of course Evan Lysacek versus Yevgeny Plushenko. It was an incredible showdown, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I’d rather talk about Takahiko Kazuka and Johnny Weir whose performances I loved, not only for their skating but also for their unusual musical choices. After all, there’s only so many times you can listen to Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov or Carmen by George Bizet.

Takahiko Kozuka is an up-and-coming 19-year-old from Nagoya, Japan. He was the 2006 world junior champion and a two-time Japanese national silver medalist. I love his skating because he is not only technically proficient but also naturally expressive and lyrical. He still needs some time to develop before he becomes a real contender, but watch out for him in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Kozuka and his coaching staff made some outstanding musical choices for his short and free skate programs.

Unfortunately, the official Olympics website doesn’t include the ability to embed video.. stupid!  Here is a link to Kozuka’s short program, skated to “Bold As Love” by Jimi Hendrix.

Kozuka skated his free skate to the Guitar Concerto by Michael Kamen and Tomoyasu Hotei. Contrapuntist and I both enjoyed this classical/rock fusion concerto. Unfortunately, because NBC sucks, they didn’t say or show the name of the piece or the composer during the performance. However, they had the information on their website. I did a little digging to find out some background information on the composers. It turns out that Michael Kamen was not only a composer and arranger but also the founder of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. Tomoyasu Hotei is a legend in the Japanese rock world, founding J-rock outfit Boowy and later becoming a successful soloist, collaborator, and actor.  Here is a link to Kozuka’s free skate.

Johnny Weir is one of my all time favorite skaters. This flamboyant, outspoken 2008 world bronze medalist and three-time US national champion has had a tumultuous career. At his best, he can be one of the most expressive figure skaters out there. At his worst, he’ll end up on his butt after every jump. And that’s when he doesn’t have his foot in his mouth from making some ridiculous soundbite. But when Johnny is good, he’s so good. He even has a reality series right now, entitled Be Good Johnny Weir. Johnny has always struggled to marry his athletic and artistic abilities to produce a clean performance. This Olympics, he finally achieved his goals. He may not have medaled, but I couldn’t be any more pleased with his beautiful performances (by the way, Olympic judges, what were you thinking when you gave him such low scores last night?).

Here is a link on to Weir’s short program performance to “I Love You, I Hate You” by Argentinian pianist and composer Raúl Di Blasio.

Weir skated his free skate to “Fallen Angel”. Unfortunately, I could find little information about this piece. I’ve heard the commentators on several television networks say that the piece was written for him, and that it describes the ups and downs of his career. NBC’s website lists the composer as “various artists”, and I couldn’t find anything in print to confirm what I’ve heard from the commentators. In any case, here’s  a link to Weir’s free skate performance.

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