© 2004 Lawrence Tuczynski
|Title||80TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE SYMPHONY / SANJU KINEN SERIES|
|Music Composed by:||Akira Ifukube|
|Number of tracks||Disc 1 - 5|
Disc 2 - 8
|Running time||Disc 1 - 59:07|
Disc 2 - 62:16
|Number of discs||2|
|Year of release/manufacture||03-29-1995|
March 29, 2004
AKIRA IFUKUBE: 80TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE SYMPHONY / SANJU KINEN SERIES
This 2-disc set, released on the Futureland label in 1995, offers a generous selection of live recordings of some of Akira Ifukube's finest classical compositions, released in commemoration of the maestro's 80th birthday. The music was performed by the New Symphonic Orchestra, led by a rotating roster of four conductors - Maki Ishii (a former student of Ifukube), Kazuhiro Koizumi, Kouichiro Harada and Kenichiro Kobayashi. The performances were recorded between September 1993 and October 1994, and took place at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the Tokyo Fine Arts Theater, and the Tokyo Culture Hall.
Disc 1 opens with an awe-inspiring performance of LAUDA CONCERTATA (1979), one of Ifukube's most memorable compositions. It's a sprawling, majestic piece featuring stirring orchestral themes, with particular emphasis on several extended marimba interludes. Many of these segments are performed without additional musical accompaniment, but there are also some overlapping moments of impressive interplay between marimba and orchestra. During the final few minutes both forces join together in an intricate, textural call-and-response, which rapidly escalates to an up-tempo march and finally a relentless sonic assault, sending the piece hurtling towards a powerful, ear-shattering conclusion.
The next piece, JAPANESE RHAPSODY (1935), is one of Ifukube's earliest works, written when he was only 21. The first movement begins with a bittersweet Eastern melody played on solo violin, 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 violin melody. The second movement is far more vibrant and upbeat, beginning with a whimsical clarinet theme set to a bouncing rhythm, immediately followed by a thunderous orchestral barrage. This study in contrasts continues with delicate, exotic melodies weaving in and out of powerful symphonic phrases, against an insistent marching beat that moves quickly towards a satisfying finale. Notably, one of the exotic themes in this movement was later reworked for the Odo Island ritual scene in the first Godzilla film.
The first movement of 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 slower, more inquisitive passages, which are played in a variety of arrangements, but the action doesn't stray from the main theme for long. The second movement is a far more sobering exercise, beginning with a sad clarinet melody that is soon echoed by the orchestra, and followed by some very Eastern-sounding flute and orchestral passages. The dark mood is maintained until just near the end, when the tempo and volume suddenly pick up to bring the piece to a dramatic, galloping climax, only to conclude with a quiet reprise of the sad clarinet theme.
Disc 2 begins with Ifukube's JAPANESE SUITE FOR ORCHESTRA, a 1991 reworking of his very first composition, PIANO SUITE (1933). The first movement is a mid-tempo, Eastern-flavored march, characterized by pounding drums and a stirring orchestral theme. The theme is carried by regal horns and sharply resonant strings, alternating with softer variations for flute and other woodwinds. The march slowly increases in power and volume until it reaches a dramatic, roaring finish. The second part consists of a quiet, contemplative interlude consisting mainly of flute and strings, with a hint of tuned percussion. The next movement is heralded by a solemn fanfare of woodwinds and horns, segueing into a slow, mournful passage characterized by French horn and plaintive strings. The heavy atmosphere is briefly interrupted by a spirited, rapidly-played traditional theme, before returning to an even slower, bleaker version of the previous interlude. The final movement begins as a slow march, highlighted by variations of the regal themes from the opening movement. These interweaving themes gradually become louder and more assertive, building towards a final, spectacular display of orchestral might.
SINFONIA TAPKAARA (1955 - revised 1979) is another of Ifukube's popular symphonic works, and it is given a dynamic performance here. The complex first movement begins with a brief, sad introduction, followed by a sprightly woodwind fanfare. Then the orchestra barrels in with a stirring, traditional theme played at breakneck speed, featuring blaring horns, strident strings and pounding drums. The rapid pace soon gives way to quieter, more contemplative woodwind-and-horn phrases punctuated by sharp orchestral accents, which lead into a slow, somber passage of horns and strings. The orchestral interplay continues against a steady, plodding rhythm, finally winding down with a few lonely notes from a single horn, violin and cello. Suddenly the woodwinds make another playful entrance, followed by a glorious reprise of the original main theme, which ends the movement in a stampeding, thunderous flourish.
The second part begins with a soft, melancholy theme played on flute and harp, followed by a slow, mournful string-and-woodwind interlude. As the wash of strings grows louder and more reassuring, it introduces another repeated woodwind melody that unfolds in a variety of forms as it alternates with the string theme and a reprise of the flute-and-harp passage. The full orchestra makes its dynamic entrance in the final movement with an even bolder arrangement of the frenetic main theme, before settling into an extended duel with a series of quiet, insistant woodwind and string explorations. Soon the orchestra gains the upper hand once more, leading to the most spectacular, relentless version of the main theme yet, which brings the piece to an explosive conclusion.
The collection closes with the first movement of SYMPHONIC FANTASIA (1983), undoubtedly one of the maestro's most popular concert works. The complete 3-part composition (with a 4th movement added in 1991) features highlights from Ifukube's sci-fi/fantasy film scores, with an emphasis on his well-known themes from the GODZILLA series. Though only the first movement is included here, it offers a substantial number of memorable tunes, including Godzilla's theme, the main titles from the original GODZILLA and KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, a love theme from BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, Baragon's theme from FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, the battle music from GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER and the marches from BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. Thanks to its popularity with Godzilla fans, SYMPHONIC FANTASIA has been performed and recorded numerous times over the years and can be found (in whole or part) on several CDs on this website. To view these sources, as well as alternate recordings of the other works included in this set, see THE AKIRA IFUKUBE CLASSICAL INDEX on Page 19.
80TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE SYMPHONY / SANJU KINEN SERIES
[ Disc 1 ]
Japanese Rhapsody, 1935
Ballata Sinfonica, 1943
[ Disc 2 ]
Japanese Suite for Orchestra, 1991
Sinfonia Tapkaara, 1955 (rev 1979)