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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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful compilation of Japanese concert music. A great introductory buy for someone branching out from the traditional western composers.Published 21 months ago by T. Schott
The liner notes reference to "in the style of jazz" may have been inspired by the Allegro of the Akutagawa triptych, which has a recurring blue note passage which sounds incredibly... Read morePublished on March 16, 2013 by Wayne Barker
This is, in more than one way, a rather curious disc. To most people, this will be unfamiliar music, but overall this is hardly a "best of" Japanese music at all - some of the... Read morePublished on April 1, 2009 by G.D.