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<<  -- 3 --  Keith Bramich    IN MEMORY

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Artwork for the 'Woman by the Sea' concert (c) 2001 Sarah Brayer

Peter's organisation Art SPACE, which produced this concert, has quite a general mission -- to promote arts and culture between Europe and Japan -- and this concert, (also part of Japan 2001, a year-long celebration in the UK of Japanese culture) demonstrated the successful culmination of various strands of this work. Peter's friend, American artist Sarah Brayer, also a long-term resident of Japan, produced very striking artwork for the concert (see above). The original was raffled during the interval and won by a member of the audience, raising money for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. A representative from the Fund, speaking briefly about its work, was Japanese, and the event attracted a very multicultural audience -- especially North Americans, Belgians and Japanese.

Beginning the second half of the concert was, for me, the most baffling item -- The 'Sakura' Variations for String Quartet (1990) by five contemporary Japanese composers -- Hikaru Hayashi (born 1931) who coordinated the writing of this piece, Shin'ichiro Ikebe (born 1943), Kazuo Kikkawa (1954), Kyoko Hagi (1956) and Rikura Terashima (1964).

The Rubio Quartet's viola player, Marc Sonnaert, began alone by playing the 'Sakura' theme -- a popular and striking Japanese folk melody, known also to audiences in the west. Then followed ten variations -- two from each of the composers listed above, and played in an order decided by the performers. The composers apparently wrote their variations without any prior discussion, and with no instructions or restrictions. This well-crafted music sounded to me mostly like pastiche -- with variations reminding me of Schubert, Tchaikovsky and Dvorák, and not detectably Japanese apart from the theme. Furthermore, the whole piece was over very quickly, and following the powerful language of the McCabe première, the result to my mind was confusion.

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Copyright © 13 September 2001 Keith Bramich, London, UK

 

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PETER MALLETT'S ARTSPACE WEBSITE

JOHN McCABE'S WEBSITE

THE JAPAN 2001 WEBSITE

PETER MALLETT ON THE RUBIO STRING QUARTET

 

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