Music and Vision homepage


<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    JAPANESE FANTASY


Okada highlighted many fantasy elements in Op 109, the first movement's interruptions, the contrast of the lyricism and the violent outbursts in the second movement, the serenity of the finale. His passionate performance moved swiftly and easefully onto important climaxes and drew some appealing colours in the rarified textures, such as the finale's triple trills, and the fugue was virtuoso. If overall one sensed a need for greater flexibility of tone and rubato, his precision and glistening palette were particularly well suited to the twentieth century sonorities of Yashiro's sonata, a work, interestingly, overtly inspired by Op 109. Yet while there is a compelling Beethovenian influence at work in the cyclic use of themes, the sound world is definitely influenced by Messiaen, with whom Yashiro studied, after graduating from the Tokyo National University of Arts, between 1951 and 1956.

Akio Yashiro (1929-1976) was one of the most gifted Japanese composers of his generation, and his technical finesse, also bearing the influence of his other Paris teacher Nadia Boulanger, is evident in his few yet fine works including the Piano Concerto (1967) which Okada recorded recently with the Ulster Orchestra (on Naxos -- see the M&V CD review by K Bramich). Yashiro's Sonata dates from the summer of 1960, when it was commissioned by the Ohara Museum in Kurashiki, and it is progressive for its time, a sonata design first movement with dramatic tempo fluctuations followed by a virtuoso toccata, and a final theme and variations to conclude. In this work Okada's piano pyrotechnics were awesome and the orchestral power and lucidity of texture was ravishing.

Chopin's Sonata in B flat minor concluded the recital, the first movement's fiery dexterity matched by poetic intensity in the slow movement, with its contrast of persistent procession and the nocturne-like lyricism. Yet the mysterious finale, while breathtakingly articulated, lacked any sense of spectral quality, the 'winds of night sweeping over churchyard graves'. As in Chopin Op 61, a more flexible rubato and expressive nuance would have enhanced the fantasy world at play here; it is a world of which Okada's otherwise exhilarating pianism is clearly within reach.

Copyright © 4 March 2003 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





 << Music & Vision home                  Szymanowski >>