offering from the Naxos Japanese orchestral
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.
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.
see also reviews
Parry Jones and Hubert