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Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942) A Leaf
Frederic RZEWSKI (b.1938) Short Fantasy on "Give Peace a Chance"
Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942), John LENNON (1940-1980), arr. Ichizo OKASHIRO Hey Jude
Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942), John LENNON (1940-1980), arr. Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996) Golden Slumbers
Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942), John LENNON (1940-1980), arr. Barbara MONK-FELDMAN (b.1953) Michelle
Paul McCARTNEY (b.1942), John LENNON (1940-1980), arr. Ichizo OKASHIRO Yesterday
Ryuichi SAKAMOTO (1952-) Aki 2.2
Michel BLOCK (1938-2003) "billet doux"
Chitose Okashiro (piano)
Recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NYC, April 12th-13th 2003.
CHÂTEAU C10002 [52.00]


In the late 1980s pianist Aki Takahashi commissioned 47 contemporary composers to arrange their favourite Beatles songs. For this disc, the second on her own label, the young Japanese pianist Chitose Okashiro has revisited some of these transcriptions as well as adding some others.

The disc opens with "A Leaf", a piece by Paul McCartney written after his Liverpool Oratorio. This is a charming, if over-long, piece in the style of an etude. Well wrought, though undemanding, it lacks the melodic spark of McCartney’s popular songs.

Frederic Rzweski’s arrangement of "Give Peace a Chance" is the first of the transcriptions commissioned by Aki Takahashi. A spiky, jazzy piece, it uses the original Beatles material simply as a starting point. This raises the question of what is a transcription. Some of the items on this disc are transcriptions a la Liszt in which the original melodic material are presented without much in the way of adornment. Others, like this one, are more free fantasias in which the original piece is radically transformed. The original material is used simply as a key to the transcriber’s own fantasy and often, as in Rzweski’s piece, the original can disappear entirely.

The transcription of "Hey Jude" is by Okashiro’s brother, Ichizo Okashiro, and gives us a transcription (in the Lisztian sense) very much redolent of Percy Grainger’s transcriptions of Gershwin tunes, complete with Grainger’s beloved woggles.

Takemitsu’s transcription of "Golden Slumbers", also commissioned by Aki Takahshi, is purely magical. Takemitsu succeeds in transforming the original material into his own sound world, whilst preserving the integrity of Lennon and McCartney’s song. Takemitsu went on to create a series of Beatles arrangements for guitar which are well worth searching out.

Barbara Monk-Feldman’s "Michelle" is a charming, if rather too solid, re-creation of the original. Ichizo Okashiro’s "Yesterday" starts out traditionally, but develops into something in a rather more modernist style, giving his sister some opportunities for some amazing pianism.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s "Aki 2.2" is a contemporary fantasia on the Magical Mystery Tour. The original material is very much in the background here, with Sakamoto’s modernism to the fore giving Chitose Okashiro free reign artistically and pianistically.

The final piece on the disc is a short, original piece by Michel Block - a charming miniature which was specially written for the present performer.

Chitose Okashiro is a fine pianist, but I am really not sure about the desirability of the repertoire on this disc. Takemitsu apart, the composers either add very little to the Beatles’ originals or overwhelm them with their own personality.

Robert Hugill

see also review by Neil Horner


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