This is a sumptuous, relaxed, languorous CD of nine spare - yet
also explosive - Japanese contemporary pieces for piano. It is
as much an act of love as it is of exposition of new music. The
composers have been chosen by Hiroaki Takenouchi to represent
work from that country of the last half century or so. They reveal
an intensity with - and, really, a sort of authority over
- melody, texture, rhythm and what the instrument can do. This
intensity, this sense of command, can amaze, if we enter this
sound-world as receptive listeners.
"Cosmos Haptic" takes its title
from the piece of that name by Joji Yuasa. It represents
a highly satisfying chronological survey stretching from the
piece by Yuasa to Fujikura's moromoro, written within
the last five years. Nine pieces in all; and at the same time
a recital of real depth and interpretative strength.
This time-based approach is deliberate.
There's little or no feeling on Takenouchi's part of anything
to 'prove' about the ability of practitioners of a Japanese
'Western' musical tradition to hold their own. Nevertheless,
if you were sceptical about, or new to, this repertoire, this
excellent CD ought to go a long way towards convincing you:
here is beautiful, accomplished and truly delightful music.
After all, the longest work on this rather generous CD is Les
yeux clos II by Takemitsu.
Cosmos Haptic makes an interesting point. It's Yuasa's
conscious rejection of twelve-tone technique as being suitable
only to a straight Western tradition. There is still a sense
of unfolding, but the thrust is more explicitly 'directed',
'intentional' - hence the name. 'Haptic' implies an immediate,
The Takemitsu piece is one of the last the
composer wrote for solo piano; he didn't write many such anyway.
And it's a gem. Right at the centre of the spirit of the works
on this CD, it moves as decisively as it does stealthily. Miyoshi's
and Nodaïra's pieces are in contrast with what comes immediately
before and with Hosokawa's "Haiku", which
follows it, in that they have more pace, more evident animation.
The "Haiku" homage to Boulez shares some of
the latter's sound-world: clusters, vertical groupings, a love
of sound for sound's sake, sporadic interjections which serve
to imply the melodic lines, rather than define them in
linear fashion. Here Takenouchi is at his poetic best.
Pauses, attacks, holding of notes - such techniques seem aimed
at stretching the limits of pianism, without self-consciousness.
In fact they plunge us right into the essence of best practice
and great creativity for the instrument.
Harada's, the longest work on this CD, is
musician's music. It is concerned again with contrasts - those
between the issues when performing heavily textured music, and
the sparser, slimmer solo instrumental focus. Again, Takenouchi
works emphatically with the composer's intentions. He has no
interest in virtuosity - despite that concern of Harada's.
Tsurumi's Toy 2 looks as though it'd
be the most experimental of the works here. It uses computer-generated
material and even quotes from Borodin. Yet it aims at a cohesiveness
that perhaps doesn't quite come off - though through no fault
of Takenouchi's. His expert playing makes for an interesting experience;
but sounds are maybe just a little too forced, too random, too
clever for the good of the whole.
Fujikura's moromoro (a theatrical
comedic battle) again contrasts calm with energy. By design,
Fujikura adapted his original ideas - inspired by the sculpture
of Tomoya Yamaguchi - to the wishes of the pianist, Tomoko Mukaiyama.
The composer explains the process in his short entry in what
could usefully have been a much longer booklet. moromoro
is thus sedate and subdued for its first three quarters; then
fast and furious to the end.
This is emphatically and unashamedly modern,
at times dissonant and aggressively uncompromising playing of
honest, crystalline music. Takenouchi (just 30 years old) is
based in London, where he studied with the late Yonty Solomon.
He will go far. His sureness of touch and dramatically clear
and clean insight are ideally suited to this music and to the
world it inhabits. For something new, different, yet essentially
full of integrity, beauty and creativity, this CD is well worth