'I am very proud of my friend Toru Takemitsu. He is the first Japanese composer to write for a world audience and achieve international recognition.' - Seiji Ozawa
Born in Tokyo on 8 October 1930, Takemitsu was largely self-taught and became influenced by twentieth century European composers - particularly Debussy, Messiaen and Webern.
At the beginning of his career he avoided the Japanese artistic tradition, as a member of the Jikken Kobo (a 1950s experimental workshop for avant-garde Japanese art), and began to use tape in his early works.
In the 1960s he first heard and was impressed by the music of John Cage, and this may have led to his introducing traditional Japanese music elements into his work.
By 1970 he had established himself as a leading avant-garde composer, and began to refine his style, leading to works such as A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden from 1977. His later works, from about 1980, began to make more use of melodic elements, and brought a closer synthesis of Eastern and Western styles.
This later music is unmistakeable - gentle, subtle and slow, inspired by (or seeking) rain, wind, trees, islands, song, and floating in time-space, connecting opposites such as East and West, life and death, music and silence, tradition and innovation.
In addition to his concert music, Takemitsu wrote the music for nearly a hundred Japanese films, including Kurosawa's Ran.
Takemitsu died in Tokyo on 20 February 1996, aged 65.
A selection of M&V articles about Toru Takemitsu
Delicacy and Clarity - Bill Newman listens to young Chinese pianist Jianing Kong
Absolutely Outstanding - Kotaro Fukuma's performances of Schumann, Chopin and Liszt amaze Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Knowledge and Imagination - Lavinia Meijer plays recent music for harp, and impresses Paul Sarcich. '... an exceptional player ...'
CD Spotlight. A Delightful Spirit - Balkan music for flute and guitar, heard by Howard Smith. '... a near perfect blend of timbre and balance ...'
Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music
CD Spotlight. Fire and Magic - Richard Stoltzman's 'Phoenix in Flight', recommended by Malcolm Tattersall. '... meltingly beautiful ...'
Ensemble. Beautifully Realised - Music for flute, viola and harp from The Wakeford Ensemble, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Finesse and Subtlety - Orchestral music by Toru Takemitsu, recommended by Mike Wheeler. '... meticulous care for detail ...'
Ensemble. Intelligent and Cogent - Julian Jacobson attended the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe's Summer Celebrity Festival
CD Spotlight. A great starting point - Land's End Chamber Ensemble's first CD, reviewed by Malcolm Tattersall. '... first-rate performances and excellent production.'
Profile - And your compere is Paula Robison! Bill Newman talks to the American flautist, campaigner and announcer of the Spoleto Festival's mid-day concerts
Teenage talent - Malcolm Miller hears Asuka Nakamura at Leighton House, London
Record box - Heart-rending sounds. Music for trombone and orchestra by Takemitsu, with Keith Bramich
Japanese tone painting - Takemitsu, Schumann and Musorgsky. Malcolm Miller at a recent recital by Noriko Ogawa