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Andrew Fraser
Limelight Magazine, December 2007

Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930–1996) was prolific, writing 93 film scores and hundreds of works for concert performance, yet he wrote surprisingly few for the piano. This collection contains every known work he wrote for that instrument. They are frequently slow moving, exploring the tonal qualities of the instrument with sustained chords that decay into silence, outbursts of percussive sound and long gaps. While harmonically original, they are rarely harsh. Romance (1949) was his first piece to receive a public performance and is the least original in this collection, with the influence of Debussy heard in nearly every bar. Lento in due movimenti (1950) is more experimental, exploring the bass sonorities of the piano. Uninterrupted Rest Nos. 1–3 (1961) is percussive in nature and contains random elements similar to the work of his friend John Cage. The remaining seven pieces ont eh disc were all written after 1973 and show the composer at his finets. Here the harmonies have become denser while the overall sense of time and space remains unchanged. Interestingly, the last piece—Litany (1989)—is a recomposition of Lento in due movimenti, effectively demonstrating a part of the composer’s journey. Pianist Kotaro Fukuma favours a less percussive tone than Izumi Tateno on his 1996 Finlandia release, emphasizing the frequently beautiful and meditative nature of Takemitsu’s music.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2007

Born in 1930, Toru Takemitsu dragged international attention to the considerable volume of classical music that has been composed in Japan during the 20th century. His background had been a largely self-taught composer, building his knowledge from studying scores of West European composers. After a period of infatuation with French composers, including Debussy and Messiaen, the cerebral approach of the Second Viennese School greatly attracted his Japanese upbringing. Early scores drew a very mixed reception, and it took time for his music to receive international recognition. By winning friends among high profile conductors, he eventually received performances and recordings of his orchestral works that were critically acclaimed. His piano pieces have also been taken up by major concert artists, though in very differing styles in this disc’s traversal through 43 years, the earliest, Romance, dating from his teenage years. That period, with Messiaen’s timeless quality colouring the Lento in due movementi, is very likeable and easy to understand, within the space of nine years the Pause ininterrompue had moved to embrace the disjointed approach of John Cage. It was to continue into Piano Distance completed in 1961 and set the scene for almost all of his subsequent piano music, though in the shadows of his last work for the instrument, Rain Tree Sketch II, you can again hear Debussy. That he could compose in a purely commercial market comes in the gentle and charming Piano Pieces for Children from 1978, and completing the circle we have a 1989 reworking of the Lento in due movementi which became the Litany in memory of Michael Vyner, Artistic Director of the London Sinfonietta. Still a student, the young Japanese-born pianist, Kotaro Fukuma, has been formally educated in Paris and Berlin, his first prize in the 2003 Cleveland International Piano Competition opening up a career on both sides of the Atlantic. He takes a most analytical and detailed approach to Takemitsu, rather at a lower emotional temperature than in many performances I have come across, and I guess the composer would approve. The recording made in the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto possesses that cool, clear and limpid quality the music demands.

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3:10:33 PM, 2 May 2016
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