© 2004 Lawrence Tuczynski
|Title||CONTEMPORARY MUSIC OF JAPAN VOL.3|
|Music composed by:||Akira Ifukube & other composers|
|Music conducted by:||Shigenobu Yamaoka|
|Music performed by:||Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra|
|Number of tracks||8|
|Number of discs||1|
|Year of release/manufacture||10/21/1987|
January 26, 2004
Review by Sam Scali
The CONTEMPORARY MUSIC OF JAPAN series, showcasing the works of various Japanese composers, was originally released on vinyl in the 70's and 80's, and made its first CD appearance in 1990. This volume features an excellent selection of orchestral compositions, including a piece by Godzilla maestro Akira Ifukube.
Ifukube opens the disc with TRIPTYQUE ABORIGINE (1937), a spirited, three-part composition with obvious ethnic influences. The first movement is a vibrant, rhythmic folk romp, featuring lively interplay between violin and piano, and enhanced by spare orchestration and simple percussion. The second movement paints a more somber, contemplative picture, with slow, muted horn passages weaving a sad melody, joined by woodwinds, piano, violin and harp. The upbeat mood returns in the final section, with animated violin, sprightly flute and playful piano supported by minimal orchestral backing and percussive textures. It's a fine performance of a work that is decidedly different from most of the maestro's film music. Later recordings of this piece appear on other CDs on this site, including TYCY-5369~70 and FOCD-3222 (reissued as FOCD-2512), KICC-175 and KICC-377~8.
The next composition, SAHO NO MAI AND UHO NO MAN (1942), by Fumio Hayasaka, is a regal, expansive piece, with a full orchestral sound and an unmistakably Asian flavor. The slow, steady rhythm conjures up images of a royal procession or long desert journey, exploring a variety of intriguing musical themes along the way (including some quiet, introspective moments), and slowly building to a majestic finale that evolves into a peaceful coda.
Yasuji Kiyose's JAPANESE FESTIVAL DANCES (1940-42) is another three-movement work with a strong traditional flavor. The first part features a repeated, high-pitched flute or piccolo motif, played in a staccato rhythm and echoed by the full might of the orchestra. This duel increases in intensity, interrupted by a few quieter interludes and finally building to an impressive climax. The mysterious second movement slows things down considerably, introducing dramatic, hesitant themes that suggest a traveler who has lost his way. The final section offers orchestral variations on the flute theme from part one, presented in a more confident, military fashion - ending the work on a suitably triumphant note.
TEN HAIKAIS OF BASHO (1947), a work by Syukichi Mitsukuri, closes the disc, and rather than being a single, unified work, it consists of a series of brief, seemingly unrelated musical vignettes. The mood of these pieces ranges from pastoral, to mysterious, to romantic, to dramatic - almost like disparate cues from the soundtrack of an adventure film. The effect is pleasing, and an unexpected way to end a CD of otherwise more conventionally structured compositions.
Unfortunately, this collection is now very hard to find - it was reissued with a different cover in 1995 (VICC-23008), but that edition is also out of print. Hopefully these recordings will see the light of day again in the near future.
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC OF JAPAN VOL.3
Akira Ifukube Aboriginal Triplet (1937)
JAPANESE FESTIVAL DANCES (1940, arr. 1942) by Yasuji Kiyose
Tracks 1 -3: Recorded in February 1, 1972 at Kawaguchi Public Hall