2005 Lawrence Tuczynski

Title: J CLASSIC GREAT RECORDING SERIES 8
CD Label: EMI
CD Number: TOCE-9434
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Music Performed by: Tokyo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kazuo Yamado
Number of tracks: 5
Running time: 46:03
Number of discs: 1
Year of release/manufacture: April 23, 1997 (recorded in 1968)

REVIEW

September 18, 2005 (Courtesy of Sam Scali)

This rare CD, featuring vintage performances of some of Akira Ifukube's better known classical works, is actually an attractively repackaged version of an earlier disc, GREAT RECORDING IN JAPAN SERIES #9 (CZ30-9017), originally recorded and released on LP in 1968. The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Kazuo Yamada, gives an inspired, exuberant performance, and the sound quality is quite good considering the age of the recordings.

The acclaimed JAPANESE RHAPSODY (1935) is one of Ifukube's earliest works. The first movement opens with an exotic, serpentine melody played on solo viola, accompanied by sparse percussion and piano. This is followed by a soft, melancholy orchestral passage, which segues into the string section's reprise of the original viola melody. The second movement is far more vibrant and upbeat, with a whimsical clarinet theme ushering in a thunderous orchestral assault. This study in contrasts continues with delicate, exotic melodies weaving in and out of powerful symphonic phrases, backed by a relentless marching beat that races towards an exhilarating finale. Notably, one of the exotic themes in this movement was reworked for the Odo Island ritual scene in the first GODZILLA film.

The first movement of SYMPHONIC BALLAD, a.k.a. BALLATA SINFONICA (1943), begins with an uplifting, celebratory theme played by the full orchestra at a rapid pace. The lively rhythm is broken by a few slow, inquisitive passages, played in a variety of arrangements, but the focus doesn't stray from the main theme for long. The second movement is a far more sobering exercise, opening with a sad oboe melody that is subsequently echoed by the orchestra, and followed by some very exotic flute and orchestral passages. The dark mood is maintained until just near the end, when the tempo and volume dramatically increase, bringing the work to a thrilling climax.

CANTALENA BALLABILE SUL MODO ANTICO DI GIAPPONE (1967) or "Chorus by Ancient Japanese Melody" is a stately and beautiful work, performed entirely on solo guitar, and originally dedicated to Ifukube's son, Kiwami. It was composed in the style of a "Toka", an early form of Japanese court music dating back to the 7th century. The piece begins with a quiet, introspective passage, gradually picking up in tempo and complexity. The shifting dynamics continue as delicate interludes converge with rhythmic tremolo patterns and bursts of intricate fretwork, ultimately concluding in a dramatic flourish. The piece's spare virtuosity underscores the breadth of Ifukube's talent, providing a sharp contrast to his lush orchestral work.

Though sadly out of print, these classic recordings are a must for fans of Ifukube's classical output, and either CD incarnation is well worth seeking out.

J CLASSIC GREAT RECORDING SERIES 8
Tokyo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kazuo Yamada
Solo guitar on Track 5 by Yasuo Abe

    Japanese Rhapsody (1935)

  1. Nocturne (7:26)
  2. Fete (8:05)
  3. Symphonic Ballad (1943)

  4. Allegro Capriccioso (7:39)
  5. Andante Rapsodico (7:33)
  6. Cantalena Ballabile sul modo Antico di Giappone (1967) (14:53)