2007 Lawrence Tuczynski

Title AKIRA IFUKUBE: Guitar Transcriptions
CD Label Mittenwald
CD Number MTWD-99027
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Music performed by: Kohiro Sasozaki
Hiromi Omiya (tracks 1 & 2)
Number of tracks 7
Running time 66:33
Number of discs 1
Year of release/manufacture September 20, 2006

REVIEW June 15, 2007

This CD of guitar music released on the Mittenwald label on September 20, 2006 is somewhat similar to the February 2004 release by this company of AKIRA IFUKUBE: Works For Guitar (MTWD-99019) also on this site and performed by Kohiro Sasozaki in 2003. The music here is mostly solo guitar work without other instrumental accompaniment. I found the tracks here to be soothing and relaxing. No hard, fast tracks, this is the kind of CD that is ideal to put on after a hard day's work to just sit back, listen and relax. I can highly recommend this CD to Ifukube collectors and fans of solo guitar work in a classical style. Some of this music has appeared on other CD's in other forms so a few tracks may sound very familiar to some.

June 21, 2007: (updated June 25, 2007) Review by Sam Scali

Akira Ifukube was actively involved in the presentation of his music until the end of his life, overseeing recorded works by a variety of young musicians. Like 2004's AKIRA IFUKUBE: Works For Guitar (MTWD-99019) album, GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS showcases the considerable talents of Kohiro Sasozaki performing several selections from the maestro's repertoire, including two versions of a rarely heard composition. Another talented guitarist, Hiromi Omiya, accompanies Sasozaki on the album's centerpiece, "Ballata Sinfonica" (Tracks 1 and 2).

"Ballata Sinfonica" is one of Ifukube's most acclaimed works, though it is better known in its sweeping symphonic incarnation. The considerably more streamlined twin-guitar arrangement presented here is surprisingly effective, with intricate tempo and volume changes deftly executed by the young artists. The album DUO UEDA PLAYS AKIRA IFUKUBE also features a delightful version of this piece, but the performance by Sasozaki and Omiya is considerably richer and more full sounding.

Track 4's "Toccata per Chitarra" (Toccata for Guitar) has been recorded many times, including a sprightly, uptempo version found on Duo Ueda's disc, but Sasozaki's interpretation is particularly mesmerizing and resonant. "Kugoka, Aria Concertata di Kugo-arpa" is another familiar work, an expansive 20-minute composition that is usually performed on koto. Sasozaki had already recorded a superb 6-string version on WORKS FOR GUITAR, and the piece is given an equally lush and faithful presentation here. The somber, impressionistic "Fantaisie; Gen-ka" (Fantasia for Baroque Lute) has appeared less frequently, with only two previous koto performances released on CD (FOCD-3144 and TYCY-5488). Sasozaki more than does it justice with an intimate and sonically appealing rendition.

The guitarist also performs two adaptations (Tracks 3 and 7) of a 1978 composition called "Santa Maria". Evidently this brief but lovely piece has only appeared on CD once before, on harpsichordist Sumina Arihashi's 2002 album CEMBALO REVOLUTION (King Records KKCC-3004). Track 3 offers a fairly straightforward reading, played in a solemn, stately manner on acoustic guitar. Track 7, which closes the CD, takes a somewhat different approach. It features the haunting strains of a 12-string guitar that is specially tuned to simulate the sound of a harpsichord. It's likely that Ifukube originally composed the piece with that instrument in mind, because it is structurally similar to harpsichord cues heard in the maestro's LATITUDE ZERO film score.

Despite its rather generic title, GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS is a wonderful recording, featuring spirited and revelatory performances of several familiar works. It's an aural treat for Ifukube fans and classical guitar enthusiasts in general, and well worth seeking out. Mittenwald CDs are not as widely distributed as other Japanese labels, but they can be ordered online from HMV Japan and Tower Records Japan.

AKIRA IFUKUBE: Guitar Transcriptions
AKIRA IFUKUBE (Taisho Year 3/1914 ~ Heisei Year 18/2006) COMPOSER, ARRANGER
Track translations courtesy of Jolyon Yates

    POETIC SYMPHONY (1943/2001)
    BALLATA SINFONICA

    Arrangement: Kohiro Sasozaki

  1. 1st Movement: Allegro Capriccioso
  2. 2nd Movement: Andante Rapsodico
  3. SANTA MARIA (1978) [from OGIN-SAMA/LADY OGIN]

  4. Santa Maria
  5. TOCCATA FOR GUITAR (1970)

  6. Toccata per Chitarra (TOCCATA FOR GUITAR)
  7. KUGOKA (1969)
    [Kugo: an ancient Assyrian harp adopted by China]

  8. Kugoka, Aria Concertata di KUGO-arpa
  9. FANTASIA (GEN-KA) (1980/1993)
    [The kanji for GEN-KA are, literally, 'Phantasmal Brother'. This piece is usually translated as 'Fantasia for Baroque Lute']
    Arrangement: Kohiro Sasozaki

  10. FANTASIE : GEN-KA
  11. For Cembalo Guitar

  12. Santa Maria