The musical brains behind a supposedly deaf composer dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven” claimed on Thursday that the mock maestro was a scheming manipulator who could hear normally – but couldn’t even write sheet music.
The startling allegations come a day after Mamoru Samuragochi confessed to hiring another man to write his best-known works, including a smash hit that had been adopted by classical music-lovers as an anthem to Japan’s tsunami-hit communities.
In a press conference that lasted for more than an hour and was broadcast live on television, part-time music school teacher Takashi Niigaki said for the last 18 years he had been penning the tunes.
“I am an accomplice of Samuragochi because I continued composing just as he demanded, although I knew he was deceiving people,” he said.
Niigaki told reporters he had been paid just 7 million yen (US$70,000) over the nearly two decades of their collaboration, during which he had composed more than 20 pieces.
“I told him a few times that we should stop doing this, but he never gave in. Also he said he would commit suicide if I stopped composing for him.”
The 43-year-old said he had called time on the deception after learning that Winter Olympics medal hopeful, figure skater Daisuke Takahashi had chosen to dance to a piece that would be credited to Samuragochi.
“I was afraid that even Takahashi, who will perform in the Olympics for Japan, would be used to enforce the lies made by Samuragochi and me,” he said.
The piece is a sonatina supposedly composed in tribute to a teenage violinist with a prosthetic right arm who had been supported by the well-known musician.
The girl’s father said in a statement that the family never suspected Samuragochi was anything other than he claimed to be when he became her patron.
“But in the past year, he demanded our absolute obedience to the point where we could no longer take it,” he said. “We told him we could not obey any more in November last year, which provoked his anger. Our relationship has been severed since then.”
Samuragochi, 50, came to public attention in the mid-1990s with classical compositions that provided the soundtrack to video games including Resident Evil, despite reputedly having a degenerative illness that left him profoundly deaf by the age of 35.
Over the following two decades his fame grew, as did his reputation as a tormented artist held hostage by his ungovernable passion for music that he could no longer hear.
But Samuragochi, who once described his deafness as a “gift from God”, was far from the tortured genius of his public persona, Niigaki said on Thursday, and the hearing loss was little more than an act.
“I’ve never felt he was deaf ever since we met,” he said. “We carry on normal conversations. I don’t think he is (handicapped).
“At first he acted to me also as if he had suffered hearing loss, but he stopped doing so eventually.
“He told me, after the music for the video games was unveiled, that he would continue to play the role (of a deaf person).”
He also added Samuragochi would listen to recordings of his music and offer critiques.
Samuragochi has not responded publicly to the fresh allegations.
The scandal, which has gripped Japan, surfaced on Wednesday when Samuragochi came clean through his lawyer as the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine readied to print a tell-all interview with Niigaki in its Thursday edition.
The Tokyo-based music teacher claimed he thought initially he was being hired as a composer’s assistant.
“But later I found out that he cannot even write musical scores,” he said. “In the end, I was an accomplice.”
The most famous work credited to Samuragochi is Symphony No 1, Hiroshima, which its supposed creator said had been written in tribute to those killed in the 1945 atomic bombing of the city.
The work became an extraordinary hit for a classical music CD, selling 180,000 copies in a genre where a hit often only logs 3,000 sales, according to its distributor.