Orchestral favourites of Japan -
reviewed by KEITH BRAMICH
'... the traditional songs of fishermen, miners and pack-horse drivers ...'
If the title of this disc, Japanese Orchestral Favourites,
made you think of nineteenth century classics, you would be wrong.
It was not until 1921 that a Japanese composer (Kósçak Yamada)
first wrote for a western-style
symphony orchestra -- the country's doors open to European influence only from the
second half of the nineteenth century. Many of the composers featured here studied
in Europe, and the pieces on this disc were written between 1931 and 1980.
Expect something reminiscient of the delicate shades of Takemitsu, and you'll
be disappointed -- it's only in the last and most recently written piece here,
Threnody to Toki [listen -- track 8, 6:02-7:08]
by Takashi Yoshimatsu (born 1953) that the influence of Takemitsu
is really felt. Yoshimatsu's piece is a prayer for the continued future of both
tonal music and of the near-extinct Japanese bird of the title.
Traditional music from the Japanese imperial court is featured
in Etenraku [listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:15],
a Gagaku piece which was possibly originally introduced from China, arranged here by
the aristocratic composer Hidemaro Konoye (1898-1973), brother of a former
prime minister and pupil of the French composer Vincent d'Indy.
Copyright © 23 April 2003
Keith Bramich, London, UK