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The Art of the Koto, Volume 1
Genre: World Music
This recording, the first of four volumes reflecting on the history of the koto, brings together five representative pieces from the classical repertoire for the Japanese koto, composed between the mid-17th and mid-19th ce... more »
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This recording, the first of four volumes reflecting on the history of the koto, brings together five representative pieces from the classical repertoire for the Japanese koto, composed between the mid-17th and mid-19th century. This corresponds roughly to the period of Japanese history known as the Edo, or Tokugawa period (1600-1868), when the country was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family from their castle in Edo, the former name of present-day Tokyo. The strict rule of an authoritarian administration and a rigid policy of national seclusion worked together to produce a relatively long period of freedom from the disruption of internal and external strife, during which the country changed and developed dramatically in social, economic and cultural terms.The music on this disc is largely a product of the daimyo, samurai and chonin merchant-class culture of the kamigata region of Kyoto and Osaka. This style of koto playing, known as the Ikuta school after the great master Kengyo Ikuta (1656-1750), also spread to and became popular in Edo and throughout the country soon after its emergence, but the new performance style championed by Kengyo Yamada (1757-1817) from the late years of the 18th century in Edo became extremely popular there, overwhelming the Edo representatives of the Ikuta school. Now the Yamada school is still largely confined to the area around modern Tokyo whereas many Ikuta school players, like Nanae Yoshimura, are also based there, and the Ikuta school dominates the koto-music scene in most other regions of the country.The koto belongs to the family of long zithers, and as with many other Japanese instruments, it can be traced back to the Asian mainland. Its history in Japan spans more than twelve centuries. The slightly convex body of the instrument is a hollow shell made of kiri, or paulownia wood, and its strings are traditionally made of silk, although nylon strings are now in common use.Booklet annotation is provided by Associate Professor Steven G. Nelson, the only Western member of staff at the new Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music, Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto, Japan.
Exceptional clarity, nuance and rare beauty
Jeff B Defty | Eugene, OR United States | 07/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have more than three dozen recordings of traditional Japanese music in my collection, and this is one that stands out for its purity, musicality and outstanding recording quality. Yoshimura's playing is always definitive, subtle and highly nuanced. "Chidori" is particularly beautiful, with the instruments and vocals carefully placed in the stereo field to evoke a strong sense of live presence. If you can only afford one recording of koto music, buy this one."
The Best Available
Edward C. Carpenter | San Elizario, Texas | 06/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The selections on this release are excellent, and the quality of sound is quite good. Yoshimura is talented. At times her performance is somewhat cooler and less inspired than other renderings I have heard. In my opinion, the best recorded koto music is from a Nonesuch Explorer Series LP which never made it to CD format. It's also available as an audio cassette. How unfortunate. Still I recommend looking for it. It's entitled: The Koto Music of Japan, performed by masters Hagiwara, Hatta, Kitagawa, and Kikusui. It is exquisite. Don't be fooled by two releases currently available that have the same title. The other Nonesuch releases by Ensemble Nipponia are also very good."