Unique in the classical music world due to its dedication to works for violin and cello ensemble, Duo-B is quickly earning praise for their passionate musical commitment, creative style, and original programming. The ensemble began in 2009 with the chance meeting of a Japanese violinist (Hirono Sugimoto) and an American cellist (Philip Borter) in Germany, at the Hochschule für Musik-Freiburg. Their fascination with travel, innovative styles of music-making, and each other soon led them down creative and unexpected paths that later resulted in the forming of Duo-B, while still graduate students at the Eastman School of Music. Early on, a diversion from their classical training has led them to explore music from a variety of genres and cultures, including folk traditions of Europe, Japan, and South America, through which they emphasize the communicative power and remarkable intimacy found in the string duo.
As an alternative classical ensemble, the couple views their artistic role as being much more than “interpreters” of a venerable long standing repertory, but are deeply invested in curating and creating music which enhances, diversifies, and re-invigorates the modern concert experience. To that end Hirono, also a composer, writes original compositions for the ensemble and they work together to create new arrangements of music from a variety of eras and genres. One of the ensemble’s most recent projects included the release of an album of original arrangements of tangos by Astor Piazzolla, which eventually led to concert tours in Italy, Japan, the Midwest, and the Southeastern United States. Hirono is currently engaged composing a series of works, titled Reimagining Bach, taking movements from Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo music and “recomposing” them through the application of modern idioms and popular alternative styles. In 2020, they are hosting a Call for Scores, sponsored by the Iowa Composer’s Forum which will culminate in performances across Eastern Iowa and result in the premiering of a number of new works for violin and cello duo.
In addition to performing and composing, the pair are active educators who have presented showcases and clinics at numerous institutions across the United States including: Ave Maria University, Luther College, St. Ambrose University, the University of Iowa, and Virginia Commonwealth University. They served as string faculty at the Dorian Summer Music Camp and maintain active private studios for string instruction. In an effort to encourage the wider dissemination and performance of music written for string duo, they self-publish their original arrangements and compositions which are available on their website (www.duo-b.com).
As winners of numerous awards, they have performed across three continents including landmark performances in Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theater, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and Minatomirai Hall in Yokohama, Japan. Most recently they were welcomed as featured guest artists at the 2019 Experiencing Villa-Lobos: International Festival, the Cedar Valley Chamber Music Festival, the Romanza Festivale in St. Augustine, FL and the 2017 Iowa Composer's Forum Music in the Shape of a Pear festival.
While dedicating their performance lives to the string duo, Philip & Hirono cherish being full-time parents and sharing as many musical adventures as possible with three off-the-wall sons: Jude, Joseph, and Matthew.