Tore Takemitsu: Green; Arc, Parts 1 & 2

COMPOSERS: Takemitsu
LABELS: London Sinfonietta
ALBUM TITLE: Tore Takemitsu
PERFORMER: Rolf Hind (piano); LondonSinfonietta/Oliver KnussenLondon Sinfonietta

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The six quasi-independent movements that make up Takemitsu’s Arc constitute not so much a piano concerto as an orchestral cycle or sequence of which five out of the six call for the participation, to greater or lesser degree, of a virtuosic obbligato piano part.

Assembled between 1963 and ‘66, and further revised up to 1976, the result is an almost informal yet major utterance which has been a notable gap in the Takemitsu discography.

One movement exists in an elaborate graphic score (realised for this disc by Julian Anderson) and altogether the orchestral writing heard here is among the boldest and most radical in the Japanese master’s output, contrasting iridescent and hardtoned colouring with his melting string melody that is the work’s ‘cyclic theme’.

In fact the thought intrudes that this work is Takemitsu’s Turangalîla – the resemblances between Takemitsu’s and Messiaen’s work are particularly close in the fifth movement, ‘Reflection’, described by Anderson as ‘possibly the fastest music Takemitsu ever composed’.

The more familiar Green (1967) is softer-edged but similarly kaleidoscopic, within a much smaller space. Rolf Hind is on top form with the sparkling shards and glinting post-Messiaenic sonorities of Arc’s piano part, while Oliver Knussen, a passionate Takemitsu enthusiast for over 30 years, directs utterly convincing accounts of even the work’s texturally densest passages.

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These are live recordings, but the sound-quality is absolutely stunning in its vivid clarity and presence.