Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Toru Takemitsu, Marin Alsop, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra|
Takemitsu: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden
Genres: Soundtracks, Classical
Exotic without seeming alien, soothing without being dull, and harmonically rich, the music of Toru Takemitsu has the feel of Debussy, with some sonorities of Messiaen for good measure. The dreamy quality and artful colors... more »
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Exotic without seeming alien, soothing without being dull, and harmonically rich, the music of Toru Takemitsu has the feel of Debussy, with some sonorities of Messiaen for good measure. The dreamy quality and artful colors Takemitsu gets from an orchestra are unique, using bells for both atmosphere and pure sound, with occasionally dissonant disruptions without ever being ugly. On this CD, made up of five works covering more than 35 years of composition, conductor Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony capture just the right mood for each piece. Even the brief Waltz from the film Face of Another keeps its creepy underpinnings despite the lilting rhythm. The big climaxes in A Flock Descends grow organically from the music's free-ish form and never seem like wake-up calls. The inherent sadness in Solitude Sonore is brought out by the graceful playing of the strings. Takemitsu's music glistens; it seems luxurious even when it's spare. If you aren't familiar with it, this CD will tickle your senses. --Robert Levine
The blandness of the late orchestral Takemitsu is countered
Christopher Culver | 01/20/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Naxos disc is the second to feature a programme consisting entirely of works by the Japanese composer (1930-1996). While the first release concentrated on late chamber works, this one presents mainly late orchestral works, performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. Unfortunately, as Takemitsu's late orchestral works are generally stale and repetitive, with the exception of a mere handful, I can't rate this so highly.
"Solitude Sonore" (1958) is the earliest piece here, from Takemitsu's first period. Its sweeping strings are reminiscent of the "Requiem" of the same era, the composer's first big hit. However, it adds several impressive innovations, such as the use of bells, and occasionally sinister dissonances on low brass.
"A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden" (1977) is a single-movement work that may be seen as the first piece of the "late Takemitsu", where he entirely leaves behind the avant-garde style of the late '60s and early '70s, embarking on that "sea of tonality" that was to last for the rest of his life. Like "Quatrain", it too is based around a single number, in this case five. Takemitsu says that he dreamed of a flock of white birds entered a pentagonal garden lead by one black bird, and this inspired him to create one of the most strictly serialised pieces of his career. It begins with a pentatonic scale, as if only the black keys of the piano were used, and eventually the seven "white notes" join it.
As for whether the piece is enjoyable without doting on its formal scheme, I'm uncertain. The problem is not that it sounds rigorous and mathematical--Takemitsu was a master of writing twelve-tone works that sound gentle and calm--but rather that it doesn't differentiate itself much from other works. Takemitsu's late pieces tend to all sound the same, and even those who have championed his music, such as Oliver Knussen, admit that they all seem cut from the same general roll. While some late works such as "Dream/Window" and the percussion concerto "From me flows what you call Time" stand out as sure masterpieces, "A Flock Descends..." has little to recommend it outside of some occasional use of aggressive percussion, a violence generally absent from later work.
"Dreamtime" (1981) continues this trend, and is representative of the dull aesthetic Takemitsu settled into. There are subtle variations in rhythm here--the work was originally written for staged choreography, and while it may work with the visual element, it's entirely unexciting on its own.
"Spirit Garden" (1994), one of Takemitsu's last works, is one of many which allude to gardens in their titles. Here the title hints at the organic derivation of all music from a series of twelve-tone chords. There is again the late Takemitsu's interest in timbres, but look! there's even some drama, and the use of faster tempos. It's not enough to make this a must-hear piece, but it does pull the disc up to three stars.
The cycle "Three Film Scores for String Orchestra" (1994/95) consists of a scene each from Takemitsu's music for "Jose Torres" (1959), "Black Rain" (1989), and "Face of Another" (1966). The first two are fairly unexciting string landscapes, but the third is a waltz, and it is interesting to see how Takemitsu dealt with this classical-era form, for Maurice Jarre-like simplicity is subtely cut across with rogue strings.
The liner notes here are fairly substantial for a Naxos disc, but still all . Fans of the composer would do well to seek out Peter Burt's THE MUSIC OF TORU TAKEMITSU (Cambridge University Press, paperback 2006).
For neophytes: even though this is a budget recording, don't let this be your introduction to Takemitsu. The other Naxos disc, with chamber works, serves well, but for fans of substantial modern repertoire, the Deutsche Grammophon discs QUOTATION OF DREAM and GARDEN RAIN are better. Come to this only if you are a collector of his works."
Mysteries, dreams and challenges.
Erik Homenick | San Diego, California | 07/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit upfront, I do not usually care much for abstract, avant-garde, atonal music. Thus, the works of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu have always posed something of a challenge for me. I am a big fan of Japanese composers, but Takemitsu's art has always eluded and frustrated me. So, I was a bit reluctant when I purchased this latest release in Naxos' JAPANESE CLASSICS series, but, strangely enough, I may be on the road to appreciating Takemitsu-sensei after all.
Written just before his death in 1996, Takemitsu's SPIRIT GARDEN opens the disc. This work is full of the mystery and suspense this composer is known for, and this piece is actually quite evocative. Using 12-note-row techniques, SPIRIT GARDEN comes to life with orchestral colors that seem to wax and wane, as if projected through a prism. While certainly not melodic in a traditional sense, the music here is quite engrossing and, while listening, I am somehow reminded of a traditional Japanese garden, but filled with ghosts and shrouded in fog.
The earliest work on this disc was written in 1958 and has the title SOLITUDE SONORE. Much like SPIRIT GARDEN, this is a colorful work, but lacks traditional melody. This is a slightly darker work in its texture, but actually sounds a lot like SPIRIT GARDEN.
Takemitsu composed several films scores during his career, and the next three tracks are excerpts from those. MUSIC OF TRAINING AND REST from JOSE TORRES has a jazzy, somewhat light-hearted feel. FUNERAL MUSIC from BLACK RAIN is darker in mood, and the WALTZ from FACE OF ANOTHER is sardonically sinister.
DREAMTIME is partially based on the "Dreamtime" creation myths of the Australian aboriginals. Again, this is atonal, abstract music that truly flows and "sounds" like a dream.
A FLOCK DESCENDS INTO THE PENTAGONAL GARDEN, Takemitsu's most performed work, rounds off this recording. In this composition, more of the composer's trademark "floating sounds" can be heard, interspersed with moments of pure silence as well as dramatic crescendos from the brass and strings. Once more, this is music of mood and color, not of melody.
There is no debating that Takemitsu was a very creative man, but his musical artistry in not easily accessible. One cannot enjoy this music in the same way one enjoys a Strauss waltz or a Rossini overture. Takemitsu requires a commitment from the listener; that is to say, one must really LISTEN to get anything out of the music.
While I personally do not enjoy Takemitsu's style as much as other composers, his music does have a fascinating uniqueness that is often profound, if a little demanding. This is not a recording I will listen to often, but when I do, I suspect I will be in the right mood and willing to surrender to the composer's challenging yet vivid sounds.
The conductor Marin Alsop and her Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra certainly understand this music well and perform it with the utmost reverence and determination. I cannot imagine that these easy pieces to perform convincingly, but Alsop and company do so quite successfully. The sound, as is usually the case with Naxos, is stellar.
Recommended for those with a little patience and who are willing to try something well out of the ordinary.
A Musical and Moving Dream
J. McCarthy | 03/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music on this CD is even more breathtaking than I had anticipated.
I highly recommend it to anyone who likes classical music, and particularly appreciates music that is not easily classifiable. This is music that is often discordant, and the silences are as important as the musical refrains."