Hayasaka’s claim to fame rests currently on his
1950s film scores for Kurosawa’s Rashomon and The
Seven Samurai. In fact he wrote about a hundred scores
for the cinema. There are chamber and concert works too including
the fifty minute symphonic suite Yukara written four
months before his death as well as Movement in Metamorphosis
for orchestra (1953), String Quartet (1950) and Seventeen
Pieces for piano (1941).
He was born in Sendai, North Japan and after falling on hard times moved to Sapporo. Orphaned, he had to go
out to work. In his own time he studied music and developed
a proselytising performing interest in twentieth century music.
His two movement Piano Concerto (I 22:22; II 10:19) was premiered in Tokyo on 25
June 1948. The long first movement
is broodingly contemplative and poignantly melodic. There
are echoes of Rota and Rachmaninov. The writing
displays a sumptuous romantic tendency with a sense of gentle
cinematic longing winding though its pages. This rises at
the end to a briefly pummelling intensity and fades back into
nostalgic quietude. The shorter second (and last) movement
is light-hearted recalling elements of Milhaud and Gershwin
with an occasional romantic aside. It’s all very attractive.
In the Concerto there are only wispy hints of what
we may recognise as typical traditional Japanese music; not
so with the Ancient Dances on the Left and on the Right.
The title and the writing have their origins in courtly Gagaku
a subset of which is Bugaku – orchestral music accompanying
dance. The Ancient Dances make prominent use of percussion
including gong and bass drum. The cast of the writing assigned
to the woodwind is also instantly recognisable to Western
ears as oriental. This is music that conveys mystery and ceremony.
The Overture is a symphonic march with nationalistic
elements as in the Ancient Dances but with a more outgoing
and even jaunty character. Do not be surprised if you catch
yourself thinking of RVW’s March of the Kitchen Utensils
from the music for Aristophanes’ Wasps. The march
theme is repeated Bolero-like each time dressed in
Hayasaka was friendly with another Japanese composer,
Akira Ifukube (1914-2006) whose music can be heard on Naxos 8.555071 and 8.557587.
A predilection for corny marches demonstrated by Ifukube’s
250 plus film scores – and especially Godzilla (1954)
– can also be heard in Hayasaka’s Overture in D.
This is a well documented disc that is too easily
lost in the torrent of new releases. That would be a pity
as the music is attractive in a rather conservative way –
especially the Piano Concerto.
(USA sales only)