Tan Dun; Takemitsu; Hayashi

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tan Dun; Takemitsu; Hayashi
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Tan Dun; Takemitsu; Hayashi
WORKS: Pipa Concerto – Tan Dun; Nostalghia – Takemitsu; Viola Concerto (Elegia)
PERFORMER: Wu Man (pipa); Moscow Soloists/Yuri Bashmet (violin, viola), Roman Balashov
CATALOGUE NO: 4027

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Takemitsu and Hayashi, both Japanese, absorbed European traditions so thoroughly (Takemitsu drawing on the French Impressionists, Hayashi on East-European figures) that one might not readily identify their origins, although once you sink into Nostalghia and Funeral Music from the film scores it is clear they are imbued with Japanese sensibility. The role of Tan Dun’s native Chinese culture is more dominant. In this concerto the solo part is written for the lute-like pipa, with an ancestry stretching back 2,000 years. Wu Man is probably its most celebrated exponent, well-known for working with Western composers such as Terry Riley. Whilst favourably disposed to Tan Dun’s music, I sometimes feel the nuts and bolts holding it together are too obvious. This applies to several passages in this concerto. It’s colourful and full of incident, but the tracks by Takemitsu and Hayashi are more satisfying. Bashmet lingers lovingly over Takemitsu’s textures: Nostalghia is a good 20 per cent slower than I Fiamminghi/Werthen’s version on Telarc, but then Takemitsu’s attitude to tempo markings was notoriously subjective. The brief suite drawn from film cues is vibrant and atmospheric, and the rich, full sound of the Moscow Soloists is shown to particularly good effect here and in Elegia. For me Hayashi’s Concerto is a very welcome discovery. Barry Witherden