Takemitsu: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; Spirit Garden; Dreamtime

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COMPOSERS: Takemitsu
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Takemitsu
WORKS: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; Spirit Garden; Dreamtime
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.55776
This is a beguiling collection of early and late Takemitsu works. Perhaps there is not much stylistic development between Solitude Sonore (1958) and Spirit Garden (1994), nor are the pieces themselves at all developmental in any Western goal-directed sense; but their atmospheric evocation of time and place, their subtly perfumed harmonies, their impressionistic lyricism and serenity of spirit are qualities that require no apology. Though none of the items is a first recording, the two works I have named are, I think, the least familiar: the short Solitude Sonore takes bell-sounds as its point of departure, the extended orchestral meditation of Spirit Garden is based on a 12-note row that produces four-note chords of constantly changing colour, but they are patently the work of the same remarkably sensitive musical ear.

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Several competing versions exist for the other three works, most notably Seiji Ozawa’s pioneering reading for DG with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of A Flock Descends – one of the most important recordings in establishing Takemitsu’s reputation among the CD-buying public. Bournemouth isn’t Boston, quite, but its playing is warmly refined and Alsop’s more relaxed tempos allow this dreamlike piece (Takemitsu said the piece arose from a dream) a little more room to drift in its hallucinatory reverie. The same applies, with perhaps even greater advantage to the music, in Dreamtime, whose best representative until now has been Hiroyuki Iwaki’s very cleanly-played but rather no-nonsense approach with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (ABC Classics). Takemitsu is a composer who demands patience and time from his performers if the audience is to extract maximum voluptuary pleasure from his mastery of colour and harmony. Calum MacDonald