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(1930 - 1996)
I hear the water dreaming (1987)** [10.50]
Toward the sea I (1981)* [11.11]
Le fils des étoiles (1975)* [ 4.15]
Toward the sea II (1981)** [11.08]
And then I knew 'twas wind (1992)* [13.10]
Toward the sea III (1989)* [10.56]
Air (1995)* [ 5.36]
Patrick Gallois (flute) Göran Söllscher (guitar) Fabrice Pierre (harp)
Pierre Henri Xuereb (viola) BBC Symphony Orchestra   Andrew Davis.(conductor)
Recording. The Warehouse, London. 9 / 96 * London, Abbey Road Studios. Studio One. ** DDD
DG 453 459-2 [67.06]
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Seven works with a shared theme - that of the sea and water - make up this disc of music by Toru Takemitsu. Concern - one might say obsession - for the environment dominated much of Takemitsu's life and this release shows how much of an influence the world about him was on his artistic thinking and composition. The title work of the compilation "I hear the water dreaming" was prompted by an Australian aboriginal painting, and the sources of two of the other titles can be traced to, firstly, Herman Melville and his creation the gigantic white whale Moby Dick (Toward the Sea), while "And then I knew 'twas wind" is a line from Emily Dickinson. When one realises that also in the selection is an arrangement of a piece by Eric Satie some of the universality of this enormously gifted and most cosmopolitan of men can be realised. The other dominant theme throughout the programme is another of Takemitsu's preoccupations - dreaming.

Takemitsu was a Francophile and whether his love of French music led him to this or followed from it is not clear. Debussy and Messiaen were particular favourites and he felt a particular affinity with the flute, an instrument used so much by French composers, and one that is in some form or other used in so many societies worldwide and is common to his own native Japanese culture as well as to western music.

A flautist much associated with his music is Patrick Gallois whose contacts with Takemitsu prompted him to switch from the standard western instrument to the wooden flute based upon the shakuhachi, the flute of traditional Japanese music that he believed offered more in its "richness of colours, beauty of sonority and subtlety of language" - Gallois' own words. He clearly is completely at ease with the music on this CD.

Toward the Sea, was originally written in 1981 to support the "Save the Whales" campaign. No I for alto flute and guitar is mainly in free time but with detailed tempo instructions. The flute employs effects such as flutter-tonguing and the guitar is heard mostly with chords and arpeggio figurations. No II came later from the same year for harp, alto flute and string orchestra and the second variation - No III - from 1989 was written for flute and harp. Le Fils des Étoiles is a brief arrangement for flute and harp of a Satie piano prelude that flows freely without bar lines.

And then I knew 'twas wind written with minutely detailed instructions for flute viola and harp dates from 1992 and his explanation of the work by the composer includes "has as its subject the signs of the wind in the natural world and of the soul, or unconscious mind (or we could even call it 'dream'), which continues to blow, like the wind invisibly, through human consciousness". The short Air, for solo flute was intended to be for a projected work for flute, harpsichord and orchestra that was not finished before the composer's death.

The notes with the disc are detailed and contain a number of quotations from Takemitsu. Some may find them a touch pretentious but they may help to explain his philosophy and motivation. The recording - beautifully clear and balanced - and some excellent playing, matches the music that in turn appears to capture the composers intentions of encapsulating dream-like effects in his writing. Generally slow music, almost stately at times, colour on a small scale from a grouping of intimate instruments - undoubtedly dreamlike.


Harry Downey

See also review by Ian Lace


Harry Downey

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