An interesting - sometimes
arresting - disc of music of a composer
new to me.
Akutagawa was an active
and influential composer, a conductor
and director of JASRAC (the Japanese
copyright collection service, similar
to our MCPS/PRS Alliance). His works
are strongly influenced by Stravinsky
and his teacher Akira Ifukube. Ifukube,
like Stravinsky, had a penchant for
ostinati that evidently rubbed off on
the young Akutagawa. He visited the
Soviet Union, and brought Shostakovich's
Symphony No. 4 to Japan for the first
An exciting mix, then.
Fellow countryman Takuo Yuasa clearly
thinks so, as well. Yuasa conducted
– and very well, too – Peter Donohoe's
disc of Rawsthorne piano concertos on
Naxos. See my review.
boasts an amazingly arresting opening,
brass glissing away before embarking
on a Bartók-slanted tribute to
Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice
- a link I noted before I read Morihide
Katayama's excellent introduction to
Akutagawa in the accompanying booklet.
The Stravinsky influence here is more
of the early Rimsky-Korsakov pupil than
that of the later works. Certainly the
oriental within the occidental is evident
here; the occidental to the fore, by
the way. Those ostinati I mentioned
a little earlier generate a fair head
of steam, especially when as cleanly
performed as here.
The Ellora Symphony
takes its inspiration from a town
in the Deccan in India that boasts a
temple made up of a sequence of rock
caves. The composer was inspired by
the seemingly infinite and chaotic layout
of the caves and also by the explicit
sexual content of some of the cave decorations.
Akutagawa mirrors the labyrinthine caves
in creating music that steps away from
the 'directional movement towards climaxes'
paradigm. Instead it celebrates the
infinite crossing of masculine and feminine
where 'life is renewed forever' - to
quote and paraphrase the booklet notes.
The opening is slow
and ritualistic, rather than sensuous.
The excellent recording reproduces the
crescendi with real presence - there
is a very good sense of space here.
Alas this music can appear rather diffuse
as Akutagawa's sudden juxtapositions
become tiring and even predictable.
There is no doubting the composer's
mastery of atmosphere creation - he
can set one up within seconds - and
there is plenty of internal energy here,
but a lot of this sounds just like film
Finally the early Trinita
Sinfonica of 1948, a work whose
first movement exudes real humour entirely
in keeping with its 'Capriccio' label.
This contrasts with the lullaby-like
'Ninnerella' - lovely plaintive bassoon
solo. The finale is a wonderful way
to end an interesting, if not life-changing,
disc. There is a distinct Rimskian jollity
about this bright and extrovert five-minutes
that will surely leave a smile on your
see also review
by Kevn Sutton