Instrumentalists: Eto & the Koto

With a bow to Conductor Leopold Stokowski, a bow to the Philadelphia Orchestra, a bow to the audience in Manhattan's Philharmonic Hall, stocky Kimio Eto adjusted his formal robes and settled before a 6-ft.-long stringed instrument that looked like the fuselage of an unfinished model airplane. He bowed again, and a kettledrum thundered to begin the premiere of Modernist Composer Henry Cowell's Concerto for Koto and Orchestra, the first concerto ever composed by a Westerner for the 1,100-year-old Japanese instrument.

Plucking the silk strings claw-hammer fashion with his right hand, Eto drew...

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