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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]




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.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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