Takemitsu: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; Dreamtime; Star-Isle; Orion and Pleiades

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Takemitsu
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; Dreamtime; Star-Isle; Orion and Pleiades
PERFORMER: Paul Watkins (cello); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Tadaaki Otaka
CATALOGUE NO: CD-760
The fascination comes from familiar sounds arranged in fresh ways. Takemitsu’s chords, colours, even the visually evocative character, all echo the Debussy-Messiaen tradition. But to say that Takemitsu gave them a Japanese accent is an understatement. The music shapes time and makes events follow one another in a profoundly un-European way – hence the freshness.

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In the last twenty years his orchestral music has engaged the senses and imagination of listeners around the world, now clearly distanced from the old avant-garde, and this CD dips persuasively into the Takemitsu continuum. Dreamtime and Star-Isle are the most immediately seductive, the one turning its images languidly and the other full of suspense and explosive tendencies. A Flock Descends…, the oldest and best-known, packs a greater density of textures and incidents into its alternately abrasive and tender span.

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At the other extreme, Orion and Pleiades sustains more continuous and explicit lines, especially on solo cello, though melody as such is always secondary to the haunting sequence of musical images. Paul Watkins plays with a Romantic vibrato which he phrases finely, and the orchestra has confidence and sensitivity in a full, bold soundscape, which is just right for the music’s quick-changing spirit and atmospheric precision. Robert Maycock