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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


AVAILABILITY

www.touch.demon.co.uk

Ryoji IKEDA
Op. 1 (prototype) for String Trio ¹
Op. 1 for 9 String Nonet ²
Op. 2 for String Quartet ³
Op. 2 for String Quartet ³
Wibert Aerts, violin ¹
Dominica Eyckmans, viola ¹
Jean-Paul Zanutel, cello ¹
Musiques Nouvelles Ensemble ²
Natsu Takehara, Yoko Kawakubo, violins ³
Rei Shimada, viola ³
Nagako Kato, cello ³
Recorded at Art Zoyd Studio, Maubeuge, 19th-21st March 2001 ¹, new National Theatre, Tokyo, 14th-17th May 2002 ³, RTB Belgian Radio and TV Studios, Mons, 13th December 2001 ².
TOUCH TO: 60 [51.47]

This interesting disc from Touch brings together the first of Japanese electronic reductionist Ikeda's ventures into the more "conventional" world of music for strings. He makes sure that we are aware that none of the sounds we are hearing are electronic in origin and is generally to be congratulated on this foray into a new medium. Listen to the second movement of the prototype of Op. 1 (the version for string trio) and hear some beautiful if incredibly sparse string sonorities at work. This is a million miles from both the amorphous soundworld of Takemitsu and the more populist side of Japanese classical music currently being introduced to us by Naxos. The only similarity with Takemitsu has to be in the relatively static nature of some but not all of the pieces recorded here. This is often eerie but gripping music. I would concur with other observers that the most obvious comparison with any "mainstream" composer is Morton Feldman. That said, I have been listening to a lot of Peter Sculthorpe recently and there is also probably some common ground with his earlier (more gamelan/Japanese) pieces. George Crumb is another possible point of reference.

I didn't find a great deal to choose between the two versions of Op. 1, with the expanded version for nine strings obviously adding body to the sound. Because of the generally quiet, slow and spare nature of the music, you notice the difference less than if you played a typical string trio and then a typical nonet and were asked to comment. Whatever, it is a powerfully distilled debut. For those who like new music, but not of the totally impenetrable variety, this could be for you. Op. 2 for string quartet, a single fifteen minute movement, is cast in a similar crepuscular vein. It swings between moments of quiet dissonance and crystalline beauty. The Op. 3, also for string quartet, finds Ikeda at his closest to a genuine tonality, even romanticism. He starts off almost like Samuel Barber at a quarter speed before drifting back into the more established pattern of nocturnal shadowplay.

A worthy debut in the medium and hopefully not a one off. Ikeda clearly has something to say, musically speaking, that doesn't lend itself to his previous purely electronic incarnation. Not easy listening (more queasy(?) at times!) but very listenable if you are prepared to concentrate. It wouldn't make much sense as background music and might well be best heard on headphones (blasphemy?)

Neil Horner



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