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Landscapes

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Audio CD, October 24, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

ECM's ongoing series of recordings with the Munich Chamber Orchestra continues with an intriguing album of new and recent pieces by Japan's leading composer Toshio Hosokawa, a composer who is garnering increasing and significant press attention around the world. Amongst the featured compositions are "Sakura für Otto Tomek" and "Cloud and Light", both written in 2008, and "Ceremonial Dance", written in 2000. These 21st century pieces are brought together with "Landscape V" (originally from 1993 and for string quartet, meanwhile expanded into an orchestral version). Born in Hiroshima in 1955, Hosokawa was initially inspired by Western art music from Schubert to Schoenberg. He came to Germany in the 1970s to study with Isang Yun and Klaus Huber. As he strengthened his standing in European avant-garde he also put down deeper roots in Japanese traditional music. His work increasingly suggests a dialogue between East and West, between the archaic and modern, between ceremonial music and concert music. Hosokawa considers his compositional process instinctively associated with the concepts of Zen Buddhism and its symbolic interpretation of nature. Hosokawa's involvement with traditional music led him to study the sho, the ancient Japanese mouth organ with 17 bamboo pipes. In contemporary music the best known sho player is undoubtedly Mayumi Miyata who is featured here. She was previously heard on ECM in Helmut Lachenmann's Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (The Little Match Stick Girl). On the present disc Mayumi Miyata solos in Hosakawa's music for strings and sho, and plays unaccompanied sho on "Sakura", Hosakawa's adapation of a traditional Japanese piece. Landscapes is the tenth ECM release to feature the Münchener Kammerorchester, following recordings with music of Karl Amadeus Hartmann (Funebre), Sofia Gubaidulina, Bach/Webern (Ricercar), Tigran Mansurian (Monodia), Barry Guy (Folio), Giacinto Scelsi (Natura Renovatur), Valentin Silvestrov (Bagatellen und Serenaden), Joseph Haydn/Isang Yun (Farewell) and Betty Olivero (Neharót).
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Product Details

  • Performer: Mayumi Miyata
  • Orchestra: Münchener Kammerorchester
  • Conductor: Alexander Liebreich
  • Composer: Toshio Hosokawa
  • Audio CD (October 24, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B005CYMB1K
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,763 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 8, 2015
Format: Audio CD
The sho is a Japanese reed instrument with a striking sound, capable of maintaining a drone like an organ but with a delicacy and finesse. To Western listeners, its spooky tone clusters are both fearsomely avant-garde and ethereally beautiful. No contemporary composer has shown as much interest in this instrument as Toshio Hosokawa, and no sho player has shown as much interest in the avant-garde as Mayumi Miyata. The two have collaborated on many occasions, and this ECM disc presents some Hosokawa works for the instrument. On three pieces, Alexander Liebreich leads the Munich Chamber Orchestra.

Though Japanese, Hosokawa studied in Germany and his music represents the Central European modernist trend as much as anything Asian. With this background, one might expect him to have little to do with an typical ECM sound, but "Sakura for Otto Tomek" for sho solo (2008) really does fit right in the classic European jazz of Manfred Eicher's label. Out of the sheen-like drone of the instrument, stepwise melodies gradually appear. The entire proceedings are slow, and somewhat poignant, and I was reminded of the playing of French accordionist Richard Galliano that I had heard on this label before.

Hosokawa is more concerned with ambiance and slow chordal progressions than clear themes or development. "Cloud and Light" (2008) combines the sho with orchestra. Its form is extremely simple, a first part that is slow and merges both sho and strings into a single texture, until ultimately the brass appear to striking effect. After a silence that lasts several seconds, the listener is then plunged into more chaotic music. This too fades into silence, only to return us to the sound of the work's beginning.
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