About this Recording
8.220297 - MAYUZUMI, Toshiro: Samsara / Phonologie symphonique / Bacchanale (Hong Kong Philharmonic, Yoshikazu Fukumura)

Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929–1997)
Samsara • Phonologie Symphonique • Bacchanale


Phonologie symphonique

Phonologie symphonique was commissioned by the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in 1957 and received its first performance under the direction of Akeo Watanabe. The composer has declared his then interest in the acoustical experiments of Edgard Varse as well as in serial techniques. In Phonologie symphonique there is an attempt to find a synthesis between the two, while demonstrating, as in all his works, a preoccupation with sounds for themselves, their peculiar sonorities in isolation and in juxtaposition. The work leads to an excitingly rhythmic climax, showing, as so often with this composer, a character completely its own that retains, nevertheless, clear affinities with the other work of Mayuzumi at this time.


Bacchanale, written in 1953, can be heard as an even more explicit product of Mayuzumi’s period of study in Paris, his declared intention to produced, as he said, a cosmos of sounds reflecting the vital energies of the origin of music. The title, which has for theè composer no particular mythological reference, allows an orgy of sounds, often percussive and discordant, but tending to preserve a feeling of tonality in spite of this.

The work has relatively little of pure melodic interest, making an impression rather by its sheer vigour of rhythm, sometimes of apparent jazz inspiration, and, in particular, by its treatment of pure sound. Although the first impression of Bacchanale may be one of almost barbaric intensity, there are, too, moments of romanticism, for example in a repeated violin solo, a moment of relaxation in its more astringent surroundings.


The symphonic poem Samsara was completed in 1962 and first performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Japan. Samsara is the cycle of existence, an endless procession of birth and rebirth dictated by the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, as the individual is condemned to a ceaseless series of existences, each moulded by his own actions in the previous state. In Buddhism as in its predecessor Jainism there is an attempt, nevertheless, to find a means of escape from this treadmill of life, an escape from ignorance and privation into nirvana. The saint endeavours to destroy in himself all traces of worldly desire—Destroy your passions as an elephant throws down a hut of reeds, in the words of the Bodhisattva.

Samsara can only be seen as a musical expression of Buddhist teaching, a demonstration in sound, if you will, of the attempt to annihilate desire in the seemingly endless cycle of the samsara. Again Mayuzumi shows his absorbing interest in sound itself, an acoustical preoccupation always evident in his music, however different its character in other respects. Here he endeavours to interpret a religious conception of considerable complexity, a philosophical idea. As the composer has said, of a subtlety that defies immediate expression.

Keith Anderson

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