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Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Green (1967) [6:53]
Arc - part 1 (1963-1966/76) [15:17]
Arc - part 2 (1963-66/76) [13:33]
Rolf Hind (piano)
London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
rec. live, Royal Festival Hall, London, 28 October 1998.

This disc contains two works: Green, for orchestra, which is an excerpt from November Steps, and Arc, a six-movement, two-part work for piano and orchestra. Green is a pure orchestral piece, which, while brief, shows off Takemitsuís textures and vocabulary.

Defined as a "cycle" rather than a concerto, Arc is one of Takemitsuís "most ambitious works for the concert hall", one that he revised intensely. Each movement can stand on its own, but all six movements are tied together. In addition, unlike a piano concerto, where the keyboard instrument is present in every movement, here the piano is absent from the sixth movement, and plays little in the fourth.

Arc has its ups and downs. With an opening movement that recalls some of John Cageís random works, the brief second movement, which presents Arcís main theme, is more lyrical, containing some intriguing solo piano sections. The fourth movement begins with a droning string theme, but slowly expands to sections of extreme dissonance and all-out bedlam. Unlike most of Takemitsuís music, this section is, frankly, disagreeable. The fifth movement is similar in intensity, yet less extreme, and the final movement, the coda, slides through the main theme of the work to a gentle ending.

All in all, while Green is a fine example of Takemitsuís orchestral expertise, Arc is a "difficult work", much less melodic or attaching than his other works, and much more experimental in its use of a wide range of instruments and colors. In addition, the contrasts between the movements are quite strong. Those familiar with Takemitsuís music, through such better-known works as A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden or A String Around Autumn will find that Arc is not of the same ilk, but for unconditional fans of this composers, this disc is a must-have, since this work seems to be no longer available on any other discs.

The sound of these recordings is curious, considering that they were recorded at the same performance. Green is a bit dense, as if it were recorded from a single microphone, yet Arc exhibits much more space; this may be due to the wider range of instruments used in Arc, which are spread across the stage more than those used in Green.

It should be noted that at just over 33 minutes, this is a somewhat niggardly recording. The London Sinfonietta could have coupled these works with either other Takemitsu pieces or works by other composers; after all, this is from a live performance by the ensemble, and released on their own label. It would have been interesting to have another half-hour of music by a composer similar to Takemitsu, to discover how he influenced others or how his music was influenced.

Kirk McElhearn

see also review by Anne Ozorio


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