About this Recording
8.557693 - MAYUZUMI: Bugaku / Mandala Symphony / Rumba Rhapsody
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Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929-1997)
Symphonic Mood • Bugaku • Mandala Symphony • Rumba Rhapsody

Toshiro Mayuzumi is one of the most important Japanese composers, enjoying an international reputation in the period after World War II. He was born in 1929 in Yokohama, a city that had developed after Japanese isolationism came to an end and therefore relatively free from Japanese traditions and conventions. Mayuzumi’s father was a sea-captain, and Mayuzumi, was brought up in this unique environment, which nurtured his yearning for the exotic, including Asia, America and Europe. His father’s occupation had another influence over the future composer in view of his absence from home during the first eight years of the composer’s life, an absence for which he later found compensation in the strength later apparent in his music. His family was not especially musical, but as was common with many rich families of the day, the family had a reed organ. Mayuzumi started to take piano lessons in his primary school days and composed dozens of songs and piano pieces, consulting books on music theory.

In 1941, Mayuzumi entered Yokohama Dai-ichi Junior High School. In war-time, Japanese schools and companies organized students and workers into choral groups, wind bands, school bands and harmonica bands, to enhance solidarity and to entertain people. Mayuzumi belonged to the harmonica band and the choral society at school, in addition to playing the double bass in an amateur orchestra. Progressing in his piano playing and aspiring to be a professional composer, he began to study music theory under a composer living in Yokohama, Taro Nakamura, whose style was neoclassical, a pupil of Kan’ichi Shimofusa who had studied with Hindemith in Berlin.

In the spring of 1945 Mayuzumi entered the composition department of Tokyo Music School (Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music), known as the best music institute in Japan. There his classmates included Akio Yashiro, his life-long friend. They began to study with Qunihico Hashimoto, chief professor of the department, but his studies at school were often interrupted by war-time conditions and frequent airraids. Hashimoto, therefore, decided to take him into his home and continue to give him lessons. At the time Hashimoto was one of the central figures in Japanese music, providing patriotic music, while privately experimenting with unpublishable dodecaphonic music. Mayuzumi learned four things from Hashimoto, the music of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, a certain versatility creating an extensive range of music from progressive pieces to pop music, how to dress and behave fashionably, and a patriotic attitude.

Musical fashions changed in Japan during the war, when Chinese and Indonesian pop-tunes replaced the banned American jazz. Latin-American music escaped prohibition, with the result that the tango and the rumba were allowed, and the blues was barred. Mayuzumi’s yearning for exoticism was fulfilled by Asian and Latin- American music. After the war there were considerable changes in the Tokyo Music School. Hashimoto, a pupil of Egon Wellesz in Vienna and an associate of Schoenberg and Krenek, was forced to resign. Mayuzumi and his friend Yashiro now began to study with two new teachers, Tomojiro Ikenouchi, a pupil of Henri Busser and Paul Fauchet at the Paris Conservatoire, and Akira Ifukube, who was discovered by Alexander Tcherepnin. Ikenouchi, an admirer of Ravel and under the influence of French academism, was then one of the finest composers and educators in Japan. From him Mayuzumi learned techniques of harmony and polyphony, based on the Conservatoire tradition. Mayuzumi’s interest in Debussy and Ravel, acquired first under Hashimoto, was deepened under Ikenouchi. Ifukube, on the other hand, worshipped Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps and was attached to ostinato and earthly, violent music only possible with a big orchestra. He was also proficient in physics and acoustics and was an expert theorist in orchestration. Mayuzumi’s earlier interest in Stravinsky was developed under Ifukube.

The post-war collapse of the Japanese economy affected the Mayuzumi family. Compelled to make money for his schooling, Mayuzumi played the piano in a jazz band, a form of music now in demand again, while continuing studies with Ikenouchi and Ifukube. Graduating in the spring of 1951, Mayuzumi and Yashiro received a French Government scholarship and entered Tony Aubin’s class at the Paris Conservatoire. While Yashiro loved Aubin’s academic methods, Mayuzumi returned to Japan after a year. In Paris, however, he had discovered Pierre Schaeffer’s tape music, using sounds of trains, street noises and electronic sounds as composition material. His interest in this led him to the belief that music using ephemeral sounds would replace European traditional music. He also came to know Varèse and Messiaen before and after his arrival in Paris.

Drawing on these diverse influence, Mayuzumi came to hold a leading position in Japanese music, even before his studies in Paris. In his Divertimento for Ten Instruments (1948), he showed a complete command of the neo-classical techniques of Stravinsky, Milhaud and Ibert, and created a kind of stateless music, appropriate for a man from Yokohama. In Sphenogramme for Eight Players (1950), he displays exotic elements, making use of ethnic styles from India and Indonesia, and by using Ifukube-style ostinato in many places. The work was given an award in the ISCM (International Society of Contemporary Music) Festival in 1951 and was performed in Frankfurt. In Symphonic Mood he summed up his musical experiences in war-time, using elements from Latin music and Southeast Asian music. His skilful, powerful orchestration amazed Japanese composers, earning him a reputation as an enfant terrible of the post-war music world.

The two orchestral works, Bacchanal (1954) and Tonepleromas ‘55 (1955), completed after Mayuzumi’s return from France, aim at powerful, paternal, “pleromas” sounds, as if to combine jazz, Latin music, Varèse and Stravinsky, by unique instrumentation, where wind instruments are mainly used. Bacchanal was performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and Mayuzumi believed that his unique rhythms, harmonies and orchestration exerted some influence on Bernstein’s West Side Story.

X-Y-Z (1953), in which real sounds including cries of animals and sounds of firing guns are used, is the first-ever piece of musique concrète in Japan. Mayuzumi also created the first piece of electronic music in Japan, in the electronic music studio of NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting station. Sextet for Winds and Piano (1955) and Mikrokosmos for Seven Players (1957) try to combine “pleromas” sounds with post-Webern style, then the latest trend.

In 1950 Mayuzumi started to write music for films and created some 250 works throughout his career, his versatility enabling him to meet any popular requirements. He wrote a number of fascinating theme songs for film and his “pleromas” sounds, his speciality, were especially effective in action movies. He also composed for television, radio and the theatre, in addition to writing jazz songs and French chansons for record companies. Following the example of Hashimoto, he used the most advanced techniques of composition, and at the same time wrote pop music, following his teacher’s example in his music and in his life-style.

In the mid-1950s Mayuzumi was inspired by the sounds of bells from Buddhist temples in the ancient city of Kyoto. When composing electronic music, he recorded bell sounds and analysed the structures of their complex overtones, using newly acquired technology. He then transferred the analysed sounds to a symphony orchestra with sextuple winds and combined the orchestra with male chorus singing Buddhist priests’ chant-like prayer Shomyo. Drawing again on elements of Stravinsky, Messiaen and Webern, he finally completed his Nirvana Symphony in 1958. This was performed in Berlin and New York, as well as in Japan, and had influence on Takemitsu’s Solitude Sonore, seeking inspiration in the sounds of the bell.

After the 1960s Mayuzumi continued to explore Japanese traditions, finding in its sources something beyond mere exoticism. The process brought his Mandala Symphony in 1960, and the symphonic poem Samsara (1962) , derived from Buddhist ideas, Bugaku, and Showa Tenpyoraku (1970), inspired by Japanese traditional imperial music gagaku.

On 25th November 1970 the internationally famous novelist Yukio Mishima, with whom Mayuzumi had often collaborated in film, theatre and broadcast, committed hara-kiri, having failed to engineer a coup d’état against the American-imposed constitution of 1945. Inspired by Mishima’s ideas Mayuzumi enjoyed close connections with right-wing conservative parties and religious groups, engaging himself in various movements to restore national solidarity, while working as a musician. He was the presenter of a popular weekly television music programme from 1964 to 1997, as well as the chairman of the Japan Federation of Composers and the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC). He also taught at his alma mater, with pupils including Satoshi Minami, Isao Matsushita, Yukikazu Suzuki, Yutaka Takahashi and Taro Iwashiro. After the 1970s Mayuzumi wrote less than before, neglected, perhaps, by the rise of leftwing thinking among musicians. In fact his two operas Kinkakuji (1976), based on Mishima’s novel, and Kojiki (1993), based on Japanese mythology, the most important works of his later years, were commissioned by foreign organizations. The former was first given by the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the latter in Linz. Japanese premières were not easy and the latter had its Japanese première after the composer’s death. Mayuzumi died on 10th April 1997.

Symphonic Mood, Mayuzumi’s first orchestral work, was completed on 1st November 1950 and was first performed on the 16th of the same month by Hisatada Odaka and the Nihon Symphony Orchestra (today’s NHK Symphony Orchestra). About this work the composer wrote as follows: “In this work I tried to express nostalgia, which is universally found in man’s mind and goes far back to man’s primitive self. The music is imbued with southern, tropical mood, as music from those areas seems to me most appropriate to express nostalgia. Such music is at the same time primitive and artistic.”

Bugaku is ballet music commissioned by the New York City Ballet. It was completed on 23rd March 1962 and had its première in New York on 20th March 1963, choreographed by George Balanchine and conducted by Robert Irving. The work reflects dance music, a form of gagaku, with its samai (left dance) and umai (right dance), echoed in the two parts of the composition.

Mandala Symphony was completed in 1960 and on 27th March had its première in Tokyo by Hiroyuki Iwaki and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by his interest in Buddhism, the Mandala Symphony draws on the doctrine of the maha-vairocana, which is infinite and covers every corner of the real world, once regarded as the world of pains. It reflects a kind of pantheism in which the entire world is the incarnation of mahavairocana. It is just that man is too stupid to understand it. So man needs to be prepared through ascetic life, where mandala plays an important rôle. Mandala is a two-dimensional or three-dimensional picture and depicts the truth of maha-vairocana. Ascetics contemplate the mandala in a search for spiritual awakening. If they are successful, they will become living Buddhas and will have infinite powers. In his symphony Mayuzumi tried to create an audible instead of a visible mandala, through which the truth that the real world is the incarnation of maha-vairocana can be perceived in nine stages, step by step. Seen from top to bottom, it shows the way Buddha descends to preach truth to man, and if seen in reverse, the way man ascends to seek after the Buddhist truth. Mayuzumi expressed these two types of mandala by two movements, which are integrated by using two six-note rows acquired through analysis of the structure of the overtones from the bell of a Buddhist temple.

Rumba Rhapsody was completed on 9th April 1948. Mayuzumi intended to use this work for his début as an orchestral composer, but before that he decided to make use of its main materials for another piece: the second part of Symphonic Mood. As a consequence, Rumba Rhapsody sank into oblivion, losing opportunities for performance. The performance on this recording amounts to its première.

Abridged from notes by Morihide Katayama
Translation: SOREL


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