has been said (and written) many times that Toru Takemitsu is
something of a latter day impressionist. Almost all the works
on this disc, most of which are from his real maturity, bear out
this statement; they are abundantly rich in colour and exotic
atmosphere, with the orchestral palette used with the utmost refinement
and subtlety. It could be said that Takemitsu goes even further,
exploring distant horizons with a sensuousness rarely heard in
any other composer.
one work which does not quite fit that category is the one which
in many ways put him on the map, the frequently performed Requiem
for Strings. The composer was only 26 when he penned this
early masterpiece but was already living with serious illness,
and the ever-present shadow of death haunts its seemingly severe
polyphonic lines. Stravinsky was a great admirer of this piece,
which possibly accounts for its subsequent popularity, and it’s
easy to hear why; it has a rigorous formal structure but a directness
of utterance and real communicative spirit that must have made
the great man aware of a genuinely original talent.
rest of this excellent disc focuses on works from the last decade
or so of the composer’s life, and are more readily recognisable
as ‘Takemitsu’. The titles betray this, as they tend to be ‘landscapes
in sound’, beautifully penned evocations of the gardens and natural
beauty with which the composer had surrounded himself. Most have
been recorded more than once, but one can feel a genuine hint
of ‘authenticity’ here, with the all-Japanese forces superbly
conveying scores that are awash with exotically harmonized textures.
All of them are entirely memorable, but my favourite is probably
How Slow the Wind from 1991. Takemitsu wrote at
the time ‘I had the impression of a milk-white light shining pale
in the midst of darkness; the appearance of nature’s great gentle
change, or the delicate look of the poet at the infinite’. This
short phrase could sum up the composer’s ethos, and it is a work
of extraordinary beauty and timbral warmth – turn out the lights
and be transported!
praise can be too high for the quality of performances and recording.
Details really matter in this music, and one has here a perfectly
judged aural experience, with balance and stage ‘picture’ spot
on. Booklet notes are detailed and knowledgeable. An exemplary