A vintage performance by Ryuichi Sakamoto, the latest in line of partners for the Krug Echoes series, in which musicians are tasked to translate the Maison’s complexity into music
It’s not every day you get to see Ryuichi Sakamoto perform live. The composer, actor and singer, whose prolific 41-year career includes writing music for The Last Emperor (1987) and The Revenant (2015), just created another musical masterpiece for Krug—a stirring three-part symphony scored for a 36-piece orchestra and piano. We were told this is what incredible Champagne would sound like, and to have Ryuichi Sakamoto on the piano would be the cherry on top of an already fantastic symphony.
Except that day didn’t come. A week before the launch, we heard the news. Sakamoto had a relapse of cancer. He needed to rest and the live performance was cancelled. Nevertheless, at the Tokyo premiere of Seeing Sound, Hearing Krug, Sakamoto’s presence was felt at the Terrada Warehouse. Together with a congregation of journalists, his friends and family and other VIPs, we gathered to listen to Suite for Krug in 2008 for the first time.
In about 30 minutes, three spectacular wines were brought to life—the Krug Clos du Mesnil 2008, Krug 2008, and Krug Grande Cuvée 164ème Édition—reliving the year 2008, an outstanding vintage that ticks all the boxes for quality. Led by a bespectacled, stoic-looking conductor, the musical journey hit all the right notes. It commenced with a cascade of triangles before rising to a suspense—slow piano chords, long-drawn notes on the violins, and cautious, hard knocks of percussion, before the big solo. A small ensemble entered in the second movement and, at some point in the third movement, everyone came together with an upward tenuto. The solo echoed the purity of Krug Clos du Mesnil 2008 (single grape variety, single year, single parcel), while the full orchestra reflected the ‘generosity’ and expressiveness of the Krug Grande Cuvée 164ème Édition.
As part of the immersive experience, the orchestra was flanked by guests who were served a pour of wine with every movement. Music makes everything taste better, and what better qualified pair than Krug and Sakamoto?
Sure, the music wasn’t quite the celebration of life that the pop of Champagne usually represents, but that’s the point. Like Krug, it wasn’t showy but layered, cerebral and contemplative. Both are refined, sublime and, in one way or another, bring you back to Earth.
“I like the concept of making the impalpable tangible,” says Sakamoto. “It is well said that we are ‘touched by music’. I believe in the sensory power of music, which provokes emotions in us.” A monumental artist for a monumental Champagne, indeed. He is, in fact, the latest in line of partners for the Krug Echoes series, in which musicians and sound artists are tasked to translate the Maison’s complexity into music. That is, to “see sound and hear Krug.”
The project took shape over three years, ever since he was approached in 2019. Both Sakamoto and Cellar Master Julie Cavil dove into each other’s craft and vision. Throughout 18 months, ideas were exchanged and differences bore similarities. Sakamoto sent a team to the vineyards and cellars in Reims to learn about winemaking and capture the sounds of Krug, while Cavil conveyed the desire to cultivate the differences in the vineyard. Meaning to say, a Krug creation is never about finding the best wines, but what blends the most ‘generous’ Champagne.
The philosophy resonated with Sakamoto. “You have to open your ears all the time because anything could happen. Anything can be music,” he continues. “Julie does not have a set recipe. I don’t have [one] either.”
Listen to Suite for Krug in 2008 here