> Toru Takemitsu - Complete Works For solo Piano [AT]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Toru TAKEMITSU (1930 - 1996)
Complete Works For solo Piano

For Away (1973)[6.43]
Litany – in Memory of Michael Vyner (1950/1989)[10.09]
Piano Pieces for Children (1979)[2.46]
Undisturbed Rest (1952/1959)[7.27]
Rain Tree Sketch (1982)[4.22]
Les yeux clos II (1989)[7.48]
Piano Distance (1961)[4.24]
Romance for Piano (1948/1949)[4.42]
Rain Tree Sketch II (1992)[3.57]
Les yeux clos I (1979)[6.53]
Paul Crossley - A Vision of Takemitsu (1999)[7.17]
Paul Crossley, piano
Rec St John’s, Smith Square, London, 10-12 September 1999
GMN.COM GMNC0114 [66.28]


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Toru Takemitsu is Japan’s finest composer of western music. His friend Paul Crossley, who has already magnificently recorded the excellent Quotation of Dream with the London Sinfonietta, is perhaps the pre-eminent pianist for his music. Ideal conditions for a five-star disc then? Well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Or maybe the excellent portents show up some of the weaknesses of Takemitsu’s music? To put it bluntly, there is a lot of chaff amongst his wheat, and only some of the Complete Works are of compelling interest.

Just as English readers lose their critical faculties just because a haiku has seventeen syllables, some western listeners have fawned over Takemitsu’s music because of its calm and tranquillity, which is considered uniquely Zen. But much of the piano music is extremely similar to that of Messiaen, in particular his Preludes, and I am not so sure Takemitsu is as rigorous, or as imaginative as his role model. The finest pieces – the Rain Tree Sketch or Les Yeux Clos (both of which, a trifle indulgently, exist in two versions) – have a very limpid beauty. Surprisingly, considering the quality of the orchestral works, the piano works’ lack of obvious organisation leaves me at least with no path into it, and much of it appears similar, and at its worst, dreary.

Nevertheless there is plenty to enjoy in this recording, thanks to the excellent advocacy of Paul Crossley. In music as static as this the colours become all important, and Crossley does marvels creating the different effects evoked by the score. Anyone interested in this music can be sure that the performances are first rate. But having listened to them I am no wiser as to the point of this music. Why is one note accented within a chord and not any other? Are the patterns really as arbitrary as they seem? Cool and calm it may be, and often extremely beautiful, but I cannot discern what it is trying to achieve. I fear that it is not a reputation that will last.

Aidan Twomey

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