Niemann, Gil-Marchex, Sz‡nt—, Saint-Sa‘ns, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: etc,Gil-Marchex,Niemann,Saint-Sa‘ns,Szántó
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Japonisme
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Noriko Ogawa (piano)
Unlike other kinds of musical exoticism, the cult of Japan delivered music more like Debussy than anything Asian. Sometimes a scale or melody crops up, or a koto imitation, but often it’s an attempt to evoke sights through sound. Ogawa’s brilliantly devised and delivered programme, in exploring the idea, leads her to some fine forgotten pieces with a sprinkling of kitsch for fun.


Theodor Szántó’s Sakura Sakura is among the strongest, soon cutting loose from the traditional tune that starts it, while Henri Gil-Marchex pitches himself bracingly between Debussy and Roussel. Cyril Scott is even more content to let his own idiom do the talking. The centrepiece is a suite by Walter Niemann – never mind the clichéd inspiration, from Fuji to geishas, the results are personal and varied.


The pack’s jokers include Saint-Saëns’s overture to La princesse jaune, whose local character comes from Arabia and China (any old exotic colour would do). Ede Poldini’s Étude japonaise also goes Chinese, though it is brilliant enough for a viable encore piece. Edouard Silas’s cod-Mikado March has a ludicrous tinkling trio tune, and the finale is Albert Ketélbey’s From a Japanese Screen, with vaguely suggestive easternisms landing on a Scott Joplin cadence. Robert Maycock