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Saburo MOROI (1903-1977)
Sinfonietta in B flat, Op. 24, 'For children' (1943) [15'46];
Two Symphonic Movements, Op. 22 (1942) [19'09];
Symphony No. 3, Op. 25 (1944) [33'20].
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Takuo Yuasa.
rec. National Concert Hall, Dublin, 9-11 September 2002. DDD

Another fascinating offering from the Naxos Japanese orchestral music series.

Saburo Moroi began his studies in his native Japan before moving to Berlin (Musikhochschule) to study with Leo Schattenholz and Walter Gmeindl. His influences from this period came from Bruckner and Hindemith. He returned to Japan in 1934. From 1940, more overtly Japanese elements began to appear in his music, and these are detectable in the works on this disc.

The Sinfonietta is subtitled 'For Children'. No further explanation of the subtitle is given by the booklet note-writer, Morihilde Katayama, although the playful, sweet nature of much of the music seems to fit. The first movement is given an affectionate performance, and there is some lovely oboe playing in the 'Andantino quasi allegretto' middle movement. The finale is a 'Lento affabile'. Gentle timpani strokes effectively punctuate the long opening melody. This predominantly gentle movement is most effective. The long melodies seem to waft in the wind - non-directionality of this sort is found often in ethnic Japanese music. The ending of the piece positively glows.

The near-contemporary Two Symphonic Movements (Andante grandioso and Allegro con spirito). The first begins with a bare octave statement of material before embarking on a dramatic journey. We are reliably informed that the second theme is based on the Miyako-bushi pentatonic scale; most will really only need to know its 'colour' of the Orient. Although not particularly inspired, this is played and recorded well, although some may find Tim Handley's recording a trifle close. Drama and play alternate in the second movement. One thing comes across strongly: Moroi's sense of harmonic colour; witness the way the climactic chordal section of the second piece (around 6'45) is radiant. This is achieved through the intrinsic properties of the chords themselves and Moroi's realisation through expert orchestration.

Finally, the Third Symphony. Moroi designates the slow introduction of the first movement as 'A Tranquil Overture', while the main body of the movement becomes 'Birth of Spirit and Growth'. Of course the titles are influenced by its wartime milieu. The evocative, twilit introduction - wonderful oboe solo - is almost Impressionist but with a Japanese slant. Expansively scored, it leads to an Allegro vivace that is perhaps of more anonymous nature. Nevertheless attractive - and later rather intense - one senses the orchestra feels the drop in compositional inspiration. Some string playing in particular emerges as rather scrappy.

The playful, Hindemith-influenced Scherzo middle movement has an appealing motoric quality; it can become quite raw at times. This contrasts with the long, sonorous finale; an Adagio tranquillo. This is music full of mystery, ominous at times, gentle and hopeful at others.

This Japanese series on Naxos is worthy of investigation and the present disc is no exception.

Colin Clarke

see also reviews by Gwyn Parry Jones and Hubert Culot



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