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Toshiro MAYUZUMI (1929-1997)
Symphonic Mood (1950) (I. Moderato: Allegro moderato [9:27]; II. Vivo [9:15])
Bugaku - Ballet in Two Parts - Court Dance Music (1962) (I. Lento [14:09]; II. Moderato - Un poco meno mosso - Allegretto - Lento [9:06])
Mandala Symphony (1960) (I. Vajra-dhatu mandala: Tempo non équilibre [6:32]; II. Garbha-dhatu mandala: Extrèmement lent [11:04])
Rumba Rhapsody (1948) [8:12]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa
rec. Michael Fowler Center, Wellington, New Zealand, 23-25 Aug 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557693 [68:26]

After studies in Europe Mayuzumi returned to Tokyo in 1953. There he co-founded with Dan and Akutagawa the composers' pressure group known as the Sannin no Kai or the Group of Three.

John Huston's 1965 epic The Bible starred Richard Harris, Ava Gardner, George C. Scott, Peter O'Toole, and Huston himself. The imposing music for the film was provided by Mayuzumi - his only Hollywood score. It was not his first film score though. He wrote the first ever Japanese score using electronic music in the early 1960s for Akasen-chitai (Red District). In 1964 there was the music for the film Tokyo Olympic. With this he won the Mainichi Music Prize.

In 1987 Philips issued a Mayuzumi CD (30LD-1016) coupling his temple bell-inspired Nirvana Symphony (1958) played by the NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Japan Chorus Union conducted by Yuzo Toyama with the Mandala Symphony played by the same orchestra, this time conducted by Kazuo Yamada. Now that is a CD I would like to hear!

Turning to the present Naxos disc ...

Symphonic Mood is the most accessible music here. It is distinctively French in style - more Ravel than Debussy. Amongst Ravel's works Ma Mère L'Oye comes closest. An Oriental overlay is spliced with the rhythmic violence of Stravinsky's Rite and the motoric impetus of Honegger's Pacific 231.

Bugaku is in two parts and is in a more advanced idiom than Symphonic Mood. Its ululating melismatic violins recall the wails and mysticism of Hovhaness's Fra Angelico overture and of Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The second section is memorable for thundering expressionless bass drum impacts and for a return to slithering melisma. Bugaku won the Otaka Prize in 1967. It is part of a group of works in which Mayuzumi returned to the traditional roots of Japanese culture - here the music of the enclosed world of the Imperial Court.

The Mandala Symphony is quite short. It takes a step out into a chilling and clamorous avant-garde world. The effect is made distinctive by mystical Buddhist iterative cells. Then again Mayuzumi can surprise by the sweetness of his ideas and treatments - as in the solo violin 'song' in the second movement. Mandala Symphony is part of a group of Buddhist-influenced works: the cantata Geka (Pratidesana), Sange for male chorus, the Nirvana Symphony and the symphonic poem Samsara (1962). Samsara is also available on CD having been recorded on Marco Polo 8.220297 with Phonologie Symphonique and Bacchanale. Samsara is also on a First Edition CD (FECD-0030) that also includes Mayuzumi's Pieces for prepared piano and strings (1957) and the Essay for string orchestra (1963).

The final work here is Rumba Rhapsody. It takes us back two years before Symphonic Mood. Uproarious and full of eye-glinting ruthless rhythmic activity it is a sort of gelignite amalgam of Honegger, Stravinsky, Mossolov and Markevich. Entertaining stuff.

A varied and striking conspectus of Mayuzumi's music. Once sampled I suspect most people will want to try some of his other scores as well.

Rob Barnett



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