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Japanese Orchestral Favourites

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 21, 2002
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 21, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 66 minutes
  • ASIN: B000063TS2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,093 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Naxos brings us six widely varied pieces by Japanese composers on this disc of Japanese Orchestral Favourites. Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra is a short suite based on four Japanese folk songs, written as an encore for one of the NHK Symphony Orchestra's European Tours. As such, it is perfect--slick, commercial, and appealing. Other works on the CD are more challenging, and for me, more rewarding. Whether they truly represent Japanese orchestral favorites I can't be sure--it's difficult to imagine such a category without a work by Toru Takemitsu--but they are certainly worth hearing. Often drenched in pentatonicism, the pieces range from the ancient--an arrangement of Gagaku Music originating in the 5th century--to the modern.
The latter is well represented by Takashi Yoshimatsu's introspective Threnody to Toki for String Orchestra and Piano. The liner notes are misleading in that they describe the piano as playing "in the style of jazz"--there is no such sense in this piece. But the notes do tell us that the toki of the title is a Japanese crested ibis on the point of extinction, and that the composer sees this bird as a symbol of beauty under threat from the ever encroaching modern world. Yoshimatsu incorporates many of the extended string techniques of the avant-guard, and that he alludes to Penderecki's most notorious composition Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in his title can be no accident. But Yoshimatsu's use of these techniques is gentler, more evocative of a quiet sadness than a heartrending cry.
More traditional than Yoshimatsu's work is Yasushi Akutagawa's Music for Symphony Orchestra. It is a two movement piece very reminiscent of Prokofiev.
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By A Customer on September 23, 2003
Format: Audio CD
The enjoyment I had hearing the Akutagawa piece on this CD (especially the allegro) is worth the modest price of this disc alone. Yes, this piece is reminiscent of Prokofiev, but that doesn't begin to describe how wildly fun and yes--exhilirating--it is to listen to. I just love it and wish I could hear some more of this composer's music. The rest of the music on this disc is also very enjoyable. I frankly don't understand criticisms of this music as being too Western. It is not meant to be classic Japanese music like music from the Noh dramas or folk music, but it is clearly influenced by native Japanese musical traditions. And why shouldn't Japanese composers be influenced by the likes of Prokofiev? It's not like Russia is on the other side of the world.
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Format: Audio CD
The first reviewer is well off of the mark. The fact that he has cited the fradulent "gypsy" influences in Brahms and Liszt as an example of real stylistic integration is evidence that he has no idea what he is talking about.

Of course these pieces have a strong Western French/German influence. They come from an interesting period in music history: a kind of behind-its-time nationalism in Japan sparked by the desire to Westernize while still maintaining cultural identity. Musically, this was ushered along by strong ties with the Germans. Yamada, who in many ways was the forefather of the composers on this disc, studied with Bruch in Berlin.

No one made any pretenses that this was a CD of traditional Japanese classical music (outside of the faithful orchestral transcription of Etenraku). It is clearly not.

What it consists of is a wide variety of responses to this climate, some more effective than others. These pieces run the gamut between almost entirely Western (Akutagawa) and almost entirely Eastern (Etenraku). Even among the nationalist Japanese taking their cues from the West, there are different facets. Ifukube was enthralled by Stravinsky, while Hashimoto was in love with the French.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent CD, well worth its price. I was particularly drawn to Kiyoshige Koyama's Kobiki-Uta (The Woodcutter's Song) which brought back wonderful memories when the Singapore Youth Orchestra played it during its trip to the Kumamoto Festival in 1992. The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra did a stellar performance on this piece and the closing bass clarinet part contrasts well with the vibrancy and fiery of the earlier parts. Not to be missed also is Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra, a combination of famous Japanese folktunes and as the opening piece in this CD rightfully sets the mood for a festive delight in Oriental music. I had a pleasant surprise at Track 3 (Nocturne by Akira Ifukube). The sad folk-song like theme, with an extended viola solo was not only haunting but also absolutely captivating. Strongly recommended for music lovers in traditional Asian music and a taste of diverse musical expressions.
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