2010 Lawrence Tuczynski

All info and scans courtesy of Sam Scali

Title HAGI NO SANBASO / TOMO NO OTO
CD Label NHK Service Centre
CD Number NSC0016
Music by: Shohin Hagioka & Akira Ifukube
Number of tracks 1
Running time 52:09
Number of discs 1
Year of release/manufacture 1992

REVIEW

October 08, 2010
Review courtesy of Sam Scali (with special thanks to Erik Homenick for further information)

This extremely rare promotional CD features the live premiere of two works, HAGI NO SANBASO, composed by Shohin Hagioka, and TOMO NO OTO, by Akira Ifukube. The recording was evidently taken from a radio broadcast of the performance, recorded in May 1990, at Tokyo's National Theater of Japan. The program was sponsored by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, or NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai), which is the Japanese equivalent of American public broadcast outlets such as PBS or NPR.

Because the recording is from a radio program, it is presented as a single continuous track, with brief spoken commentary at the beginning, middle and end. The show begins with Hagioka's piece, which is performed solely on traditional instruments such as koto and shamisen, and accompanied by Nagauta-inspired vocal chants and singing. Needless to say, the music has a distinctive Japanese flavor, with irregular rhythms and atonal melodies, and as such, may be an acquired taste for some listeners.

Ifukube's composition is longer and more complex, incorporating a modern orchestra as well as the aforementioned traditional ensemble. The introduction consists of sparse percussion, birdlike flute sounds and vocal chants, which offer few hints of the orchestral grandeur to come. The symphonic sections benefit from Ifukube's unmistakable touch, with swelling, dirge-like melodies and enigmatic motifs (not unlike some the maestro's DAIMAJIN soundtrack work), occasionally punctuated by rumbling percussion. Those passages alternate with acoustic interludes of plucked koto strings, warbling flutes and plaintive, yearning vocals. As the piece draws to a close, the traditional elements increase in speed and urgency, with a more percussive emphasis, before concluding with a fittingly solemn, orchestral finale.

Though the recording has some technical issues (tape hiss, audible turning of score pages), it is an enjoyable document of the performance, and while the sound quality is not state-of-the-art, it is still quite good. Unfortunately the CD was produced in limited quantities by NHK and is very scarce, commanding high prices on the collectors market today. But as it features the premiere performance, and only known recording (so far) of Ifukube's TOMO NO OTO, it is an important part of the maestro's legacy, and will hopefully be considered for wider release in the future.

For further information about TOMO NO OTO, go to http://www.akiraifukube.org/sound_of_tomo.htm

TRACK LISTING

1 continuous track featuring two separate compositions:


1. Hagi no Sanbaso (1990) - composed by Shohin Hagioka
2. Tomo no Oto (aka, "The Sound of Tomo - Orchestral Shinban", 1990) - composed by Akira Ifukube