<< -- 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
AN AKIO YASHIRO CD REVIEW