New Takemitsu--Late Japanese composer remembered in two new CD releases.
Thursday, June 18, 1998
Among contemporary film composers, few are as admired by their peers as Toru Takemitsu. Indeed, he was one of only three composers to get his own dedicated documentary in Music for the Movies, the comprehensive video series issued by Sony in 1994. The diminutive Takemitsu--whose death in 1996 at age 65 shocked the music world--is represented on two new CDs of his music that together offer the listener an excellent sampler of his works.
Takemitsu, like such other prolific film composers as Shostakovich and Honegger, was an even more important figure in the world of concert music. His Requiem for string orchestra (1957) caught the attention of Igor Stravinsky, who was amazed at its intensity of expression. The piece is contained in a collection of Takemitsu''s orchestral works (Sony SK 63044) featuring the Nexus Ensemble and Pacific Symphony Orchestra (from Orange County) under conductor Carl St. Clair. The other two works in the one-hour program are Twill by Twilight of 1988 (an homage to composer Morton Feldman, who died in 1987) and From me flows what you call Time of 1990, commissioned by the Boston Symphony and Seiji Ozawa to celebrate the centenary of New York''s Carnegie Hall.
It is this latter work, lasting 36 minutes, that features Nexus, an acclaimed percussion quintet formed in 1971 at the Eastman School. Plainly, Takemitsu had Carnegie''s celebrated acoustics in mind here. A thing of rare beauty, the work glows and shimmers iridescently with an astonishing palette of colors and hues. Built around a five-note theme that symbolizes the five colored ribbons of the symbolic Tibetan Wind Horse, it breathes and undulates in slow motion, delicately, subtly, rarely picking up speed or asking for forceful percussive strokes. The influence of Debussy and Messiaen--long-ago assimilated into Takemitsu''s personal language--can be detected, if more in the overtones than on the surface textures. Twill, as the title suggests, is a study in patterns of warp and woof. As the composer says it, the work''s "subtle variations in pastel-like colors express the moment just after sunset when twilight turns toward darkness."
As concerned with silence as with sound, Takemitsu once wrote, "From the very beginning, I was never able to write an allegro..." This is evident in the program described above and reiterated in Music of Takemitsu (Telarc 80469) featuring I Fiamminghi and its conductor Rudolf Werthen. (The Flemish orchestra has lately released several excellent CDs of new and almost-new music by John Corigliano, Peteris Vasks, Henryk G¢recki, Arvo Prt, Alan Hovhaness and Giya Kancheli.)
The program contains string orchestra excerpts from Takemitsu''s scores for the Imamura film Black Rain and the Teshigahara film Jose Torres, the latter a boxing documentary set in New York. Purely concert works include Nostalghia composed in tribute to expatriate Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and his film of that name, Entre-temps for string quartet and oboe, A Way A Lone for string orchestra derived from the original version composed for the Tokyo String Quartet, and Toward the Sea for strings, alto flute and harp, originally composed for flute and guitar. The music in this collection and the performances constitute a treasury of imagination, individuality and variety by Japan''s most important post-war composer.
One of the greatest British composers of the century, Sir Michael Tippett, died in January this year at age 92. Fortunately, Nimbus Records had recorded Tippett conducting many of his own works. Now, a four-CD set has been released (NI 1759), gathered as a memorial from previously issued Nimbus CDs. The value of the set is enhanced by the fact of Tippett''s own artistic force on the podium. This definitive and widely representative collection includes three concertos, suites for orchestra and from opera, choral works and other instrumental pieces.
A string summer camp for youngsters sponsored by Chamber Music Monterey Bay and the Lyceum of Monterey County, will be held from June 22-26 at First Presbyterian Church of Monterey, 10am-3pm, culminating in a free, public concert June 26, 5pm, at Monterey Peninsula College Music Hall. Some 35 students, ages 8-16, are participating. Five string teachers and two assistants are under direction of violinist David Dally. Contact the Lyceum for more information. cw
Last Week''s Quiz: Describe the origin of the word gamut. Answer: The English language version of gamma-ut, from gamma meaning the lowest tone of the scale (in Medieval theory, the G, an octave and a fourth below middle C) and ut meaning the ''moveable do'' in Guidonian hexachord solfege. Gamut came to refer to the entire musical scale, and thence took on non-musical applications.
This Week''s Quiz: What is The Garden of Fand depicted by the Arnold Bax tone-poem?
Tandy Beal & New Music Works
Friday, 8pm. Pajaro Valley Performing Arts presents popular Santa Cruz dancer/choreographer in La Creation du Monde with live music by Phil Collins of New Music Works, and film. Mello Performing Arts Center, East Beach & Lincoln streets, Watsonville. $7/adults; $4/children. 763-4047.
Oboist John Mack
Monday, 8pm. Acclaimed soloist and Cleveland Orchestra principal performs with Plymouth Trio colleagues soprano Christina Price, pianist Elizabeth De Mio, to celebrate 15th annual Carmel Valley master class, in works by Krause, Adler, others. Hidden Valley Music Seminars, Carmel Valley Road near Ford Road, Carmel Valley. $10. 659-3115.