Takemitsu: Ceremonial – An Autumn Ode; Family Tree – Musical Verses for Young People; My Way of Life; Requiem for Strings; Air for Flute Solo

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COMPOSERS: Takemitsu
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Ceremonial – An Autumn Ode; Family Tree – Musical Verses for Young People; My Way of Life; Requiem for Strings; Air for Flute Solo
PERFORMER: Seira Ozawa (speaker), Dwayne Croft (baritone), Aurèle Nicolet (flute); Tokyo Opera Singers, Saito Kinen Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 454 478-2
This CD contains a number of Takemitsu’s late pieces, all written in the six years before his premature death in 1996. They bring to a peak of refinement his gorgeously meditative orchestral style. There are no sharp edges in this music, which moves with a kind of lingering regret from one delicious Debussian harmony to another, embellishing each one with tender melodic tendrils, adding here and there an extra touch of iridescence on vibraphone or harp (in a way that suddenly evokes Messiaen). It’s the perfect idiom for Takemitsu’s Epicurean view of life, free of striving. ‘I like a tree because it doesn’t yell about love or justice’ reads a line in My Way of Life. The text for Family Tree, a set of reminiscences about ‘Mom’, ‘Grandma’ and so on, has a similarly home-spun quality. The texts’ mood of resignation and gentle nostalgia is beautifully caught by the music. You’d expect so much languorous beauty to become cloying, but Takemitsu (like his mentor Debussy) has the taut discipline of the true sensualist, and knows just when to stop. And he’s wonderfully served by the performances, which search for the expressiveness in the music rather than dwelling on its fastidious beauties – though they too are there, caught in a beautifully clear and glowing recording. Ivan Hewett

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