> YOSHIMATSU Symphony 4 [CT]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Takashi YOSHIMATSU (b.1953)
Symphony No. 4 Op. 82 (2000)
Trombone Concerto ‘Orion Machine’ Op. 55 (1993)
Atom Hearts Club Suite No. 1 Op.70b (1997/2000)
Ian Bousfield, trombone
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Sachio Fujioka
Recorded at Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, March 2001
Chandos CHAN 9960 DDD [61:22]


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This is the fifth disc that Chandos have devoted to the music of Takashi Yoshimatsu and in dedicating his Symphony No. 4 to Ralph Couzens, Chandos’s producer, the composer acknowledges in his booklet note the motivation he has drawn from the advocacy of both Couzens and his Japanese compatriot, the young conductor Sachio Fujioka, now resident in the United Kingdom following his stint as Assistant Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in the mid 1990’s.

Yoshimatsu describes his Fourth Symphony as a kind of "pastoral toy symphony", combining a vision of children at play in the new millennium with images of nature, in particular the verdancy of spring. Cast in four movements the work is immediately attractive, unashamedly tuneful and generally light hearted, this despite the fact that the composer originally had in mind a symphony with "a dark and heavy adagio". The opening movement transports us through a variety of shifting tempos and metres, commencing with a gently dancing woodwind figure, which returns frequently and subsequently undergoes development in a variety of ways. A contrasting, heartfelt string melody which would not sound out of place in the film score of Out Of Africa appears at 3’00", returning in the closing moments of the symphony, whilst the music also moves through several more rhythmically driving sections, characteristically influenced by the beat of rock and popular music. The scherzo, really a distorted waltz, has an opening melody that sounds curiously like a piece of English light music, gradually becoming interwoven with a diverse collection of waltz tunes by numerous other composers, amongst them Berlioz, Mahler and Beethoven. The third movement, an Adagietto, features a long, unfolding melody for the strings, which draws on the string figure from the first movement and introduces a music box like figure on piano part way through, whilst the Finale, progressing in rhythmic urgency from Allegro molto to Presto, is based on a variant of the opening dancing woodwind theme from the first movement.

Written for the principal trombonist of the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, the Trombone Concerto ‘Orion Machine’ takes its subtitle, as well as its five-movement form and the titles of each movement, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Trapezium, Saiph and Rigel from the structure of the stars within the constellation of Orion. Yoshimatsu complements the trombone with a "quasi-solo section" of piano, harp and percussion, placed centrally and surrounded by the other instruments of the orchestra. An impressive understanding of the instrument and its character, testing the soloist’s technique to the limits with some extraordinary pyrotechnics yet managing to avoid sounding contrived, marks the work. After a suitably atmospheric opening the soloist spins a long largo melody that fully exploits the lyrical qualities of the instrument with a slightly bluesy feel at times before the music fractures and takes us straight into Bellatrix. Marked Presto, this is Yoshimatsu back in rock style, this time a little more astringent and jazz influenced. Bousfield despatches the demands of the part with true flair and élan, athletically flying up and down the register of the instrument with consummate ease. Trapezium slows things down once again, a dirge with a broken waltz at its centre that sounds not unlike the waltz from the symphony of seven years later. Saiph is an extended cadenza, the second half of which leaves the players free to improvise. An opportunity here for the soloist to show off his extended technique with some truly amazing sounds and effects (listen to the unaccompanied passage from around 2’10", it’s astonishing stuff!). Finally, Rigel brings the work to a glowing conclusion, "a resplendent consonant rainbow", as the composer aptly puts it, the soloist returning to the lyrical style of the opening movement as the music gradually subsides to a peaceful close.

Anyone who has any knowledge of 1970’s rock music may well detect a clue in the title of Atom Hearts Club Suite No. 1 as to one, if not two, of its influences. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is perhaps the most obvious although the composer cites Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus and Fragile by Yes as the others. Add to this the comic-book hero Mighty Atom and what we have is a four movement suite for string orchestra that is strongly rock based in its rhythmic impetus with irregular, prog-rock style metres in the opening Allegro molto and boogie-woogie in the Finale with an amusing tongue in cheek conclusion. Some may dismiss it as "light music" but whatever your viewpoint, it is undeniably fun, toe- tapping stuff and there is little wrong with that!

Much of this music is delightful, particularly the Symphony where Yoshimatsu wears his heart unselfconsciously on his sleeve. Sadly however, I suspect that in the broader musical scheme of things its "popular" stylistic language is likely to lend it little longevity of appeal. The BBC Philharmonic play beautifully for Sachio Fujioka and Ian Bousfield, now principal trombone with the Vienna Philharmonic after a number of years with the LSO, is a very fine soloist indeed in the concerto. The recording too is exceptionally transparent, capturing the detail with an admirable natural clarity.

Christopher Thomas

See also

TAKASHI YOSHIMATSU (1953-) Saxophone Concerto Cyber-Bird (1993) Symphony No. 3 (1995) Nobuya Sugawa (saxophone) BBCPO/Sachio Fujioka CHANDOS New Direction CHAN 9737 [68.15]

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