Takemitsu: Complete Solo Piano

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COMPOSERS: Takemitsu
WORKS: Complete Works for Solo Piano: For away; Litany – in Memory of Michael Vyner; Piano Pieces for Children; Uninterrupted Rests; Rain Tree Sketch I & II; Les yeux clos I & II; Piano Distance; Romance; plus Crossley: A vision of Takemitsu
PERFORMER: Paul Crossley (piano)


Paul Crossley’s album of ‘complete works’ takes less time than Roger Woodward’s Complete Takemitsu Piano Music for Etcetera Records, which has fewer works; but Woodward includes a (simultaneous) realisation of the graphic works Corona and Crossings, which Crossley has left untouched. Instead he includes the very early (1948/9) Romance, a prophetic cortege whose unexpectedly Ornstein-like climax is the only breath of rhetoric to be found here. 

With its pedals to produce a penumbra of harmonics, its qualities of resonance and inevitable decay, the piano was Takemitsu’s ideal instrument. He stands in a specifically French tradition of piano writing – principally of course Debussy and Messiaen – while adapting it to his own, Japanese, aesthetic concerns. In one sense there is little variety here, but within the music’s narrow compass are intense riches. Bell sounds, voluptuous (Crossley in his booklet note even suggests erotic) harmonic colouring, the sensations of distance and memory, of floating, of weightlessness, a dissolution of rhythm into timelessness: these are the images and ideas that Takemitsu sought, perhaps obsessively, to realise – most perfectly and movingly in such works as Les yeux clos and Rain Tree Sketch.


Music such as this requires a preternatural sensitivity of touch and an acute awareness of dynamic nuance, while the sustaining pedal is almost as important as the keyboard. In all these qualities Crossley seems ideal, and he includes more works than any rival. He is better recorded than Woodward was, and seems to find an additional substratum of poetry in the slow rotations of highly-charged chords. Admirers of Takemitsu’s music need look no further. Crossley’s own piano transcription of Mystère from Takemitsu’s orchestral work Visions, which he has called A Vision of Takemitsu, makes a moving homage, and a perfect afterword. Calum MacDonald