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Finesse and Subtlety

Orchestral music by
Toru Takemitsu -
recommended by

'... meticulous care for detail ...'

Takemitsu: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; Spirit Garden; Dreamtime. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop. © 2006 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Takemitsu's music is intimately bound up with images of the natural world -- with gardens and water particularly, not merely in terms of the inspiration behind individual pieces, but also the images of walking through gardens often invoked to convey the experience of listening to them.

Unlike so much of Western art music over the centuries, Takemitsu's work is not concerned with taking us from A to B in a single trajectory. Instead, it invites us to contemplate a sound-space filled with carefully-placed objects -- sensuous harmonies, melodic shapes, shifts of instrumental colour -- moving from one to another as we might move around among the features of a garden.

The pace of much of this music is predominantly slow, but this is not the cosmic-scale slowness of a Bruckner, nor the fidgety slowness of minimalism. It is, rather, a timelessness, a paradoxical sense of both enclosed space and infinitely receding perspectives, as rich harmonic progressions, dense sonorities and exquisitely shaped solo melodic lines move in and out of each other. It would be easy to dismiss it all as floaty mood or background music, but it has a depth and vitality that repays close attention. And while the influences of Debussy and Messiaen on his refined ear for instrumental and harmonic colour can be clearly heard, Takemitsu has his own very individual voice.

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Copyright © 8 October 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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