Messiaen • Ravel • Takemitsu
Japanese pianist Momo Kodama’s first disc for ECM is a beautifully conceived programme. In all three works the notes represent much more than mere abstract sounds, yet each also marks a remarkable exploration of piano sonority. In both respects, this marks a shared French heritage, albeit from a Japanese perspective in the case of Takemitsu (for that matter, Messiaen loved all things Japanese).
By far the greatest pianistic challenge comes in La fauvette des jardins (1970), Messiaen’s half-hour portrayal of birds and the countryside around his summer home in Petichet. Kodama has already recorded fine versions of Messiaen’s two epic cycles Vingt regards and Catalogue d’oiseaux, and the experience clearly shows in both in her pacing and the range of colour. Both can be appreciated in the early pages, notably with the veiled chords that evoke the quail’s call, while the changing hue of the lake is beautifully conveyed.
Kodama also finds much poetry and space in Takemitsu’s sublime Rain Tree Sketch, with her careful use of the pedal coming to the fore. Although the latest of the works to be composed, it makes an effective bridge here between the evocations of Ravel’s Miroirs and Messiaen’s nature portrait. Kodama finds plenty of atmosphere in the Ravel, captured in excellent (for CD) sound, but the passagework here is a little more earthbound.