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Dr Maiko Kawabata

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr. Maiko Kawabata is an award-winning musicologist and violinist educated at Cambridge University (B.A.) and the University of California, Los Angeles (Ph.D.). She joined the Open University in 2021 having previously held positions on the faculties of the University of Edinburgh, University of East Anglia, and the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She also teaches at the Royal College of Music where she is Lecturer in Music.

Mai’s main research interest is in the history of musical performance, with a focus on extremes of solo violin playing – convention-breaking styles and ideas such as virtuosity and unplayability. She is the author of Paganini, the 'Demonic' Virtuoso and a co-editor of Exploring Virtuosities: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Nineteenth-Century Musical Practices and Beyond. She has also published articles on Stradivari, Paganini, Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg, Heifetz, Gilles Apap and Patricia Kopatchinskaja. She has presented her research at the American Musicological Society, the Institute of Musical Research, and numerous international conferences.   

Mai studied violin with John Crawford and the late Nona Liddell and has wide experience playing professionally in orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the UK, USA, and Germany. 

Mai is the co-organiser (with Dr. Shzr Ee Tan, Royal Holloway) of the 2019 Study Day: Cultural Imperialism and the New ‘Yellow Peril’ in Western Classical Music and 2020 IMR/RCM Conference Racialised Performance in Western Classical Music in Europe and the UK (postponed due to Covid). She received a BBC Radio 3/AHRC grant to further her research into Japanese composer Kikuko Kanai (1906 - 1986). Her ethnographic study of racialised identity among professional East Asian musicians in European and British orchestras is forthcoming. 

Impact and engagement

Mai spoke about her research into Japanese composer Kikuko Kanai on the BBC Arts & Ideas podcast:


Playing the “Unplayable”: Schoenberg, Heifetz, and the Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (2015)
Kawabata, Maiko
Journal of Musicological Research, 34(1) (pp. 31-50)

The aura of Stradivari’s violins (2014-04)
Kawabata, Maiko
Ad Parnassum. A Journal of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Instrumental Music, 12(23) (pp. 61-74)

How Gilles Apap's new cadenza illuminates Mozart, via Bakhtin (2014)
Kawabata, Maiko
ECHO: A Music-Centered Journal, 12(1)

Virtuosity, the Violin, the Devil ... What Really Made Paganini "Demonic"? (2007-04-10)
Kawabata, Maiko
Current Musicology, 83 (pp. 85-108)

Virtuoso Codes of Violin Performance: Power, Military Heroism, and Gender (1789-1830) (2004-11-01)
Kawabata, Maiko
19th-Century Music, 28(2) (pp. 89-107)

The Concerto that Wasn't: Paganini, Urhan and Harold in Italy (2004)
Kawabata, Maiko
Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 1(1) (pp. 67-114)

The narrating voice in Rimsky-Korsakov's Shekherazade (2000)
Kawabata, Maiko
Women and Music, 4 (pp. 18-39)

The New “Yellow Peril” in “Western” European Symphony Orchestras (2023-02)
Kawabata, Maiko
In: Bull, Anna and Scharff, Christina eds. Voices for Change in the Classical Music Profession: New Ideas for Tackling Inequalities and Exclusions (pp. 159-171)
ISBN : 9780197601211 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Exploring Virtuosities: Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Nineteenth-Century Musical Practices and Beyond (2018)
Hoppe, C.; Goldbeck, M. and Kawabata, M. eds.
Göttingen Studies in Musicology
ISBN : 978-3-487-15662-0 | Publisher : Olms

New Thinking: Diverse Classical Music (2021)
Arts & Ideas Podcast, and Kawabata, Maiko
BBC Radio 3