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Breathtaking Energy

Orchestral music by
Komei Abe,
reviewed by

Naxos    8.557987

Komei Abe: Symphony No 1; Divertimento; Sinfonietta. © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Komei Abe, born in Hiroshima and died in 2006 at the age of 95, was one of the very first group of students to be trained at the Tokyo Music School -- which is now the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music -- and perhaps the most imaginative and colourful products of that generation. Much of his music is characterized by a vigorous drive, like the motion of huge steam engines and the excitement of an impetuous forward drive. He was composing at a time when nationalism and primitivism had become the accepted European expressions, and unlike many of his contemporaries he endorsed these influences, but believed even further that modern Japanese music was an international art, and its nationalism should be far more broad than many of his contemporaries wished to confine it. Other influences were that of the dance and, surprisingly, Carl Orff.

His First Symphony dates from 1957 and is in three 6-minute movements, with a final Vivace assai that has breathtaking energy, quite unlike any image of the calm and filigree Japanese we may have expected [listen -- track 3, 1:00-2:11].

The Divertimento for Alto Saxophone was written rather earlier, completed in 1951 for one of the pioneers of saxophone playing in Japan, Arata Sakaguchi, originally with piano accompaniment and later successfully and imaginatively orchestrated [listen -- track 5, 1:00-2:22].

The four-movement Sinfonietta dates from 1964, and encloses a lovely slow movement not unlike Stravinsky of the Berceuse in Firebird between movements that remain individually marked, exploiting the colourful rhythmic vigour of his earlier music [listen -- track 9, 0:00-1:16].

Abe deserves much wider recognition than he has so far enjoyed over here, and thanks to Naxos he may well get it.

Copyright © 8 March 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Komei Abe: Symphony No 1; Divertimento; Sinfonietta

8.557987 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 64'35" 2007 IVY Corporation and Naxos Rights International Ltd

Aleksey Volkov, alto saxophone; Russian Philharmonic Orchestra; Dmitry Yablonsky, conductor

Komei Abe (1911-2006): Symphony No 1 (1957) (Allegro con brio; Adagietto; Vivace assai); Divertimento for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra (1951) (Andante sostenuto; Adagietto; Allegro); Sinfonietta (1964) (Allegro con brio; Moderato; Scherzo: Andante-Presto; Finale: Allegro assai)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews