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Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Rain Coming for chamber orchestra (1982)
Archipelago S for 21 players (1993)
Fantasma/Cantos II for trombone and orchestra (1994)
Requiem for strings (1957)
How Slow the Wind for orchestra (1991)
Tree Line for chamber orchestra (1988)
Christian Lindberg (trombone)
Kioi Sinfonietta, Tokyo/Tadaaki Otaka
Recorded at Kioi Concert Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 9-11 Feb. 2000
BIS CD 301078 [71’39]

It has been said (and written) many times that Toru Takemitsu is something of a latter day impressionist. Almost all the works on this disc, most of which are from his real maturity, bear out this statement; they are abundantly rich in colour and exotic atmosphere, with the orchestral palette used with the utmost refinement and subtlety. It could be said that Takemitsu goes even further, exploring distant horizons with a sensuousness rarely heard in any other composer.

The one work which does not quite fit that category is the one which in many ways put him on the map, the frequently performed Requiem for Strings. The composer was only 26 when he penned this early masterpiece but was already living with serious illness, and the ever-present shadow of death haunts its seemingly severe polyphonic lines. Stravinsky was a great admirer of this piece, which possibly accounts for its subsequent popularity, and it’s easy to hear why; it has a rigorous formal structure but a directness of utterance and real communicative spirit that must have made the great man aware of a genuinely original talent.

The rest of this excellent disc focuses on works from the last decade or so of the composer’s life, and are more readily recognisable as ‘Takemitsu’. The titles betray this, as they tend to be ‘landscapes in sound’, beautifully penned evocations of the gardens and natural beauty with which the composer had surrounded himself. Most have been recorded more than once, but one can feel a genuine hint of ‘authenticity’ here, with the all-Japanese forces superbly conveying scores that are awash with exotically harmonized textures. All of them are entirely memorable, but my favourite is probably How Slow the Wind from 1991. Takemitsu wrote at the time ‘I had the impression of a milk-white light shining pale in the midst of darkness; the appearance of nature’s great gentle change, or the delicate look of the poet at the infinite’. This short phrase could sum up the composer’s ethos, and it is a work of extraordinary beauty and timbral warmth – turn out the lights and be transported!

No praise can be too high for the quality of performances and recording. Details really matter in this music, and one has here a perfectly judged aural experience, with balance and stage ‘picture’ spot on. Booklet notes are detailed and knowledgeable. An exemplary issue.

Tony Haywood

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