The saxophone concerto was written for the present soloist and his friends,
pianist, Minako Koyagi and percussionist, Takako Yamaguchi. The style is
floridly lyrical, jazzy and fleetingly avant-garde (in a 1960s sense). The
first movement's flights of lugubrious ecstasy and energy-suffused danger
leap out from the same cliff-edges as Michael Nyman's Where The Bee
Dances. The lyricism takes some buffeting from a few ironclad passages
of wild dissonance offset by dashes of Delian relaxation. The second movement
is echoingly warm and coaxing with the 'ticking' of the piano holding the
music up - frozen in eternity. The finale is just as inventive with more
of the jazzy Nyman atmosphere. This is a major discovery.
The third symphony 'liberates those melodies, harmonies and beats that bear
the seal of the twentieth century and unleashes the passions of a composer
who was thrilled as a child by the symphonies of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and
Sibelius' (composer). Opening tremulously it soon develops into a collision
of En Saga and one of Alan Hovhaness's epic dances. Repetitive it
can be, but the explosively unstoppable propulsion which can be sampled at
4:12 is truly awesome without descending into meaningless pattern-making.
Sibelius is quite a strong voice in this work and I should not be surprised
at the attraction of this Finnish composer to Japanese musician; I have always
wanted to hear the lauded Sibelius symphony cycle recorded by Akeo Watanabe.
Hovhaness's strange ancient voices call out from broken ancient ramparts
on which flames and ancient sunsets play. The second movement's mirror fragments
dance away with a mosaic life of their own: little piano rushes and scampers
here, an oboe dance there and a jazziness that has also settled on the sax
concerto. The third movement's two cellos rhapsodise evocatively like the
prominent cello solos in Sibelius's 4th symphony. The finale's
opens with defiant Bernard Herrmann's mountain-top fanfares. Colour and heat
gusts out like a door opened from a Bessemer furnace. The blast is distinctly
Sibelian with percussive raps, Latin-American rhythms and whipcrack shots
out of the William Schuman vocabulary. This is a big and exciting symphony
of grinding and flaring triumphs, hammering, shimmering and thrumming.
Two substantial works from Chandos's composer-in-residence (and what a good
idea to have one). Yoshimatsu's voice is one for today and tomorrow. Please
do not ignore him. You will like this music.