Marty REGAN (b.1958?)
Forest Whispers (Selected Works for Japanese Instruments, Vol. 1)
Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds, for shakuhachi and 21-string koto [14:02] (2001)
Evanescent Yearning, for shamisen and koto [13:39] (2008)
In Remembrance, for shakuhachi and piano trio [12:34] (2006)
Fastpass!, for shamisen and ko-tsuzumi [7:14] (2007)
Forest Whispers, for shakuhachi and cello [14:18] (2008)
Asako Hisatake (cello) Reiko Kimura, Sahoko Nozawa (koto) Yasuko Furuse (piano) Seizan Sakata (shakuhachi) Tetsuya Nozawa (shamisen) Kaho Tosha (tsuzumi) Kioko Miki (violin)
rec. Shirakaba Studio, Tokyo, Japan, June-August 2008
NAVONA NV5831 [61:45]

Marty Regan is one of the few academics and musicians who have mediated Japanese and Western music. Since 2002 he has been associated with AURA-J, a Japanese ensemble that has specialised in that country's contemporary and traditional musics and their synthesis. In this connection he has written some 45 works for traditional instruments. We encounter five of them here on New England's eclectic Navona Records label. Regan was a joint composition and East Asian Studies graduate from Oberlin and for two years studied composition and playing traditional instruments under a bursary from the Japanese government. His translation of Minoru Miki's book "Composing for Japanese Instruments" was published by Rochester University Press in 2008.

As will be all too evident the writer is completely ignorant of Japanese music. Worse; his 'familiarity' with it can be put down to the title music to Tenko, several works of Cowell, Eichheim and Hovhaness and the music for Sondheim's Pacific Overtures! Woeful! Even so perhaps my experience will be valuable to the vast potential audience who have no prior knowledge.

The Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds is a duo for shakuhachi and koto. The former is a breathy flute; the latter a complex mandolin-like instrument - in this case running to a phenomenal 21 strings. The instruments may be traditional but the delicate music-making has a knowing romantic tendency - not so knowing as to stifle the legacy but certainly inflected with a connoisseur's sentiment. The two plucked instruments used in the three movement Evanescent Yearning (koto and shamisen) are less sentimental - more chastely Bachian in effect though the jaunty two tier contrast of the final section raises a smile among the severe acres.

The contrast between cultures is more dramatic in In Remembrance where Regan pairs Shakuhachi with Western piano trio. It's a slow affectionate lament which brought to mind Alla Pavlova. It's a lovely piece and really should be picked up by Classic FM. The Western instruments bring out the inflections of the koto. fastpass! features the delicate pizzicato of the shamisen and the tabla-like discreet percussion impacts of the ko-tsuzumi. We end with Forest Whispers for the confiding and swaying mysteries of the shakuhachi. This is mated with a dignified incantatory cello which, with its written slurs and sinuous contours, matches the shakuhachi's trajectory.

The disc can be inserted in a CD-ROM drive to access additional background - not a facility I had when auditioning this disc.

Encouragingly this enchantingly designed and produced disc is marked' volume 1' so I do hope that Mr Regan and Navona will send me their later instalments.

Everything here is warmly recorded - a very pleasurable meditative yet vitality-renewing experience.

Rob Barnett

A very pleasurable meditative yet vitality-renewing experience warmly put across.