Tadaaki Otaka has emerged as one of the leading Japanese conductors of his generation. He has held major conducting posts both in Japan and England and has led critically acclaimed performances in both the concert hall and opera house. Otaka's choice in repertory has been broad but has tended to favor composers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with Franck, Richard Strauss, Elgar, Prokofiev, and especially Rachmaninov figuring prominently in his programs. Not surprisingly, Otaka has also conducted much Japanese music: works by Toru Takemitsu (including several important premieres, such as the 1986 Gemini), Ifukube, Yamada, and others. Otaka has made numerous recordings for several labels, including Nimbus, Camerata, BIS, and Chandos.
Otaka was born on November 8, 1947, in Kamakura, Japan. His father was composer and conductor Hisatada Otaka and his mother an accomplished pianist. At Toho Gakuen School of Music in Chofu, Tokyo he studied conducting, French horn, composition, and theory. Otaka's most important teacher there was the distinguished music pedagogue Hideo Saito, whose students included Seiji Ozawa.
Following graduation Otaka conducted the Toho Gakuen String Orchestra during a European tour. In 1971 he had further studies with conductor Hans Swarowsky. While still in his twenties Otaka was appointed principal conductor of the Tokyo Philharmonic (1974) and held the post for 17 years, becoming conductor laureate in 1991. During his tenure there he made numerous tours abroad, regularly guest-conducted leading Japanese and European orchestras, and he held other positions concurrently: from 1981-1986 he became chief conductor of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra and in 1987 was appointed principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Otaka's 1985 debut in the U.S. took place in New York with the American Symphony Orchestra, and his operatic debut in England was in 1991 at the Welsh National Opera, where he led an acclaimed performance of Strauss' Salome. From 1992-1998 he served as principal conductor of Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. In 1997 Otaka was cited for his many contributions to cultural life in England when he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). In 1995 Otaka founded the Kioi Sinfonietta Tokyo. His recordings include the 2005 CD of Glazunov's Symphonies No. 5 and No. 7 on BIS, part of a cycle of the complete symphonies. In 2010, Otaka was named prinicpal conductor of the NHK Symphony and artistic director of Tokyo's New National Theatre.