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Orchestral favourites of Japan -
reviewed by KEITH BRAMICH

'... the traditional songs of fishermen, miners and pack-horse drivers ...'

Japanese Orchestral Favourites. © 2002 IVY Corporation and HNH International Ltd

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.

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Copyright © 23 April 2003 Keith Bramich, London, UK


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