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Toru TAKEMITSU (1930 – 1996)
Uninterrupted Rests (1952, 1959)
Piano Distance (1961)
For Away (1973)
Les Yeux clos I (1979)
Les yeux clos II (1989)
Rain Tree Sketch (1982)
Rain Tree Sketch II (1992)
Litany (1990)
Izumi Tateno (piano)
Recorded: Järvenpää Hall, Järvenpää, Finland, September 1996
WARNER APEX 2564 60624-2 [56:02]

 

When I first heard Takemitsu’s music (actually The flock descends into the pentagonal garden performed in Liège many years ago), my reaction was "updated Debussy", which – incidentally – I did not mean as a criticism but rather as an indication of what his music sounded like. Closer acquaintance over the years has strengthened this feeling although I had to admit that Messiaen also had some lasting influence on Takemitsu’s music.

Takemitsu’s piano music is, like much in his output, quiet and slow moving displaying some influences from Debussy and Messiaen, the latter being fairly evident in Uninterrupted Rests. One might thus be tempted to think that a whole disc devoted to such slow moving music might result in monotony. Not quite so, I must say, for there is nevertheless much contrast between these pieces and within each of them. Contrast, however, is achieved rather by dynamic variation than by speeding-up the music’s flow. Another characteristic is also clearly evident here, i.e. that most of his music is inspired by various extra-musical sources, be it literature, painting or nature. Thus, the diptych Les yeux clos (ten years separate the two panels) are inspired by paintings by Odilon Redon, that also inspired the orchestral work Visions (1986). "Rain" and "Tree" (which in my mind combine strength and fragility as well) also often feature in Takemitsu’s music, e.g. Rain Coming, Tree Line, Rain Spell or Rain Tree, the latter being a piece for percussion.

It may be interesting to know that Litany of 1990 which concludes this disc is actually a reworking and condensing of a fairly early work composed in 1950, Lento in due movimenti, although I do not know the earlier work. Neither do I know if it has been retained for performance by the composer. It is thus difficult to know the impact of the reworking of the earlier work.

As already mentioned, Takemitsu’s music is most of the time slow-moving, meditative, impressionistic with an undeniable 20th century harmonic touch. He always seemed reluctant to write fast movements, at least in his concert music, which is rather surprising when one considers the amount of often energetic and virile music he wrote for movies, such as his Mahler re-creation for Kurosawa’s masterly Ran.

However, it is good to have these pieces available again, superbly played by Tateno and warmly recorded. Well worth having, particularly at Apex’s bargain price.

Hubert Culot

 



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