ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Japanese Orchestral Favourites
PERFORMER: Tokyo Metropolitan SO/Ryusuke Numajiri
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555071
Favourites in Japan, that is. They run engagingly from the ‘auto-exotic’ via straight imitation to cosmopolitanism and sophisticated post-modernism. Several items have had Western champions though the most internationally familiar name now will be the youngest, Takashi Yoshimatsu, thanks to the advocacy of Chandos. His touching bird-lover’s elegy reveals one of the strongest voices here, based on quietly lush string harmonies with a central improvisatory piano solo and a growing chorus of downward glissandi.
Equally personable and more vigorous is Akira Ifukube’s Japanese Rhapsody, which expresses a genuine Japanese aesthetic with virtuoso Western techniques, well varied and sustained. Nothing else captures the same balance, although fans of Prokofiev will enjoy Yasushi Akutagawa’s outrageously imitative Music for Symphony Orchestra: concise, punchy and apparently very Russian.
Hidemaro Konoye’s arrangement of a gagaku melody succeeds in suggesting the traditional ensemble, though the exercise had more point in the Thirties than in an age when the real thing is available on CD. Of the nationalistic bouquets by Yuzo Toyama and Kiyoshige Koyama, the former at least has the appeal of similar efforts by English composers with local melodies, while the less said the better about the latter’s variations, except that they develop unfortunate resemblances to The Mikado. Robert Maycock