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Leo BROUWER (b. 1939) Hika: In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu (1996) [6:43] Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996) Complete Original Solo Guitar Works Folios (1974) [8:40] All in Twilight (1987) [9:26] A Piece for Guitar: For the Birthday of Sylvano Bussotti (1991) [1:22] BROUWER El Arpa y la Sombra: Omaggio a Toru Takemitsu (1995) [9:03] Toru TAKEMITSU Equinox (1993) [5:17] In the Woods (1995) [14:29] Paul McCARTNEY (b. 1942) Here, There and Everywhere (arr. Takemitsu, 1977) [2:55] Yesterday (arr. Takemitsu, 1977) [3:17]
Shin-ichi Fukuda (guitar)
rec. 18-21 October 2012, St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Review FLACs downloaded from eClassical NAXOS 8.573153 [61:16]
It might seem tacky to compare Toru Takemitsu’s superb guitar music to another Japanese art, but are you familiar with Japanese woodblock printing? Hokusai’s tidal wave is the most famous example, but many of the finest share an interesting aesthetic: a simplicity, with considerable amounts of empty space, drawing your attention to the main figures. In the words of Bill Watterson, “very few things, but precisely placed”. One pillar print by Masanobu — which you can find on the “Woodblock printing in Japan” Wikipedia page — has a portrait taking up two-thirds of the vertical space: the rest is blank.
Takemitsu’s guitar music is like this. Few composers so skilfully weave silence into the fabric of sound; in this way he could be compared to Mompou or Chopin. This is the kind of simplicity which a simple composer could not possibly achieve.
The biggest work is In the Woods, a three-movement suite inspired by different nature walks of the composer’s experience. One movement was premiered at the composer’s funeral. You may choose to hear evocations of falling leaves, or something more metaphorical; Muir Woods makes the natural setting seem as hallowed as a cathedral. The shorter pieces make an impression, too; it doesn’t hurt that, as my colleague Kirk McElhearn says in Download News, “These brief, light works are more tonal than [many] of Takemitsu’s other compositions, yet show the same impressionistic style.”
In contrast to Toru Takemitsu, the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s two tributes are busier, more fluid and energetic. Don’t expect thrills, but Brouwer, although paying homage to the Japanese composer, brings his own (agreeable) personality to the compositions.
One thing the composers have in common is a love of Paul McCartney. Brouwer’s Beatlerianas is one of the very best classical crossover works, truly inventive arrangements and inventions on the standard tunes. Five of the seven movements, for guitar and string quartet, are Paul tunes. Now, on this album, Takemitsu provides two Beatles encores: solo guitar arrangements of Yesterday and Here, There and Everywhere. The latter is especially haunting.
Guitarist Shin-ichi Fukuda’s playing is as impeccable and impressive as his credentials are, which is saying something. He was close friends with Takemitsu and similarly with Brouwer; the booklet has photos of him with both. Brouwer dedicated a concerto to him, also written in memory of Takemitsu. That makes three memorial pieces by Brouwer for Takemitsu; is that a record? The Naxos engineering is outstanding, upholding their guitar series’ usual high standards.