About this Recording
8.555882 - MATSUDAIRA: Bugaku Dance Suite / Theme and Variations for Piano and Orchestra
English  German 

Yoritsune MATSUDAIRA (1907-2001)
Theme and Variations for Piano and Orchestra • Sa-Mai • U-Mai •Danza Rituale e Finale

Yoritsune Matsudaira is descended from the Shogun family who ruled over Japan from 1603 to 1867, based in Edo, later changed to Tokyo. The family name of the Shogun was originally Matsudaira, and only a limited number of people, who possessed the right of inheriting the shogunate, were allowed to use the name Tokugawa. Yoritsune’s direct ancestry was from Yorifusa Tokugawa, the first Shogun’s eleventh son, who lived in Hitachi-Fuchu, north-east of Edo. When the Shogun regime came to an end, the imperial family, who had practically been deprived of powers and had existed only as a dignified religious and spiritual symbol, returned to the forefront of politics for the first time in six hundred years. Japan’s rapid westernisation and modernisation under the Emperor naturally involved a drastic change in the life of the Shogun family. Matsudaira’s estate in Hitachi-Fuchu was confiscated by the new government and the head of the family, Yoritsune’s grandfather, was given the title of viscount in return, following the newly introduced aristocracy, modelled on the European system. The next head of the family, Yoritaka Matsudaira, Yoritsune’s father, served the Emperor as manager of the hunting field and was to leave behind a reputation as an ornithologist and a collector of rare stuffed birds.

Yoritsune Matsudaira was born in Tokyo on 5th May 1907, the first son of the “Viscount of Birds” and heir to the title. On his mother’s side he was descended from the Fujiwara family, who had been the most powerful nobility at the imperial court from the seventh to the twelfth century and practically governed Japan. These surroundings imbued him with a peculiar character. He loved artificial things, partly because he grew up surrounded by stuffed birds, and he detested every kind of nationalistic element, because he had spent his childhood between 1910 and 1920, when individualism and liberalism were in fashion, a reaction against the nationalism prevalent since the Sino- Japanese and the Russo-Japanese Wars. Repelled by militarism, aristocracy, heroism and Japanese conventional homogeneity and collectivism, he even refused to wear a uniform at elementary school. He regarded romanticism and sentimentalism as his hypothetical enemy; he never accepted the priority of emotions over theories, sensuality over artificiality and collective solidarity over individuals. Studying the French language under French teachers at Gyosei High School, which was founded by a French Catholic order, he became more and more interested in French culture, which further fostered his unique character.

It was not until Matsudaira entered university that he decided to become a professional musician. In 1925, when he was specialising in French literature at Keio University, he went to a six-evening concert series held in Tokyo by the French composer and pianist Henri Gil- Marchex, who presented an overview of music history from Bach to Stravinsky. He was strongly impressed and stimulated by this, and finally made up his mind to become a composer, despite his limited musical experience. He had been no more than an average music lover, had tried playing the piano his sister was studying, and had been moved by Leopold Godowsky’s interpretations of Chopin, during his visit to Japan in 1922.

Now awakened to music, Matsudaira started his studies of the piano and music theory under Kosuke Komatsu, a former pupil of Vincent d’Indy in Paris, and of Charles Loutrup and Heinrich Werckmeister, then teaching in Tokyo. Starting late, but showing remarkable progress in a short period, he began to publish his own works as early as late 1920s. He was also active as a pianist around 1930, playing Debussy and Satie, his favourite composers.

Matsudaira’s interest in this period was directed to strong attachment to artificial things, anti-romanticism and French style neo-classicism, as was to be expected from the French-orientation of his thinking. His idols were Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud and Tansman, the last a Polish composer living in Paris. He tried to combine their styles with Japanese traditional music, although he was extremely selective in his use of Japanese styles. As an anti-nationalist and an anti-sentimentalist, he rejected secular festive music for the masses, and Shamisen music which, combined with Kabuki and Geisha, flourished in the Tokugawa Shogun era and was still quite popular in the first half of the twentieth century despite its sheer sentimentalism. One of his first choices was folk-songs sung in the Nanbu district, the north-eastern part of mainland Japan. Most of these songs are peaceful and calm, but in terms of expression he actually did not know how they were sung by the Nanbu people. All he knew were the scores transcribed by folk-music researchers. Using melodic material from them, he created artificial paradise-like music, lacking any element of earthiness, in a neo-classical, bitonal style. The orchestral piece Pastoral written in this style won second prize in the 1935 Tcherepnin Prize, which was held in Paris by the Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin, who had spent long periods in Shanghai and in Tokyo, with a view to introducing Japanese works to the world. Among the jury were big names like Roussel, Ibert, Honegger and Tansman. Another orchestral piece Nanbu Folk-Songs also won an award in the 1939 Weingartner Prize, which was held by the conductor Felix Weingartner, then in Japan, with the same purpose as Tcherepnin’s award. In addition to that, Tcherepnin sponsored the publication of Matsudaira’s piano and chamber pieces, along with works by other Japanese composers of his generation, including Yasuji Kiyose, Bun’ya Ko and Akira Ifukube. These were published by G. Schirmer and Universal Edition, and Matsudaira was widely recognised as one of the leading Japanese composers of the new generation. During this period, he studied with Tcherepnin in Tokyo and was inspired by his idol Tansman, who visited Japan at this time.

During World War II, Matsudaira was largely silent. The trend of the times required patriotic, rapturous, optimistic, or, in some cases, pathetic pieces, but he had no intention of writing such music. He did write some occasional pieces like Mongolian March for brass band, but except for those few works, he shut himself away and devoted most of his time to studying further skills and to deepening his thoughts, continuing to write music of his own, without any prospect of performance. This period marked the shift of his interest from the Nanbu folk-songs to Gagaku. Matsudaira was not so much a Beethoven-type composer, creating motifs for himself and developing them, but more akin to Ravel or Stravinsky, who varies, metamorphoses and refines pre-existing materials. He was, therefore, always in need of material and he finally discovered an ideal one, with which to play. It was Gagaku.

Among various types of Japanese traditional music, Gagaku has one of the best lineages, in which native Japanese music is integrated, under complex theories, with music from China, Korea, India and Vietnam. Most Gagaku pieces are instrumental, although some are accompanied by songs and dances. Gagaku developed gradually in the imperial court from the fifth century, culminating during the ninth and tenth centuries, and even today its basic instruments and repertoire are mostly from those days. Gagaku boasts several hundred pieces and various types of instrument, including the sho (a kind of mouth organ), hichiriki (oboe), ryuteki (flute), biwa (lute), and so (long zither).

Matsudaira was naturally charmed by Gagaku. Descended from a courtly noble family, who enjoyed and handed down Gagaku, he found here a type of music that kept its ancient form, because it was played only in the imperial court and in some temples, almost disconnected from the masses. Its sounds, like the cold sparkling of a jewel, stand aloof from time and, unlike folk-songs, hardly reflect human feelings. These features of Gagaku were quite agreeable to the composer, who hated any easy combination of music and emotions.

From war-time to the post-war period, Matsudaira wrote piano and chamber pieces, combining Gagaku idioms and the neo-classical style. These works, which included two string quartets, a piano trio, and a cello sonata, were played in a concert series held by Shin Sakkyokuha Kyokai (New School of Composers), which Matsudaira co-founded with Yasuji Kiyose and Fumio Hayasaka. Toru Takemitsu, then an obscure, young pupil of Kiyose, was later to join the Association.

The mid-1950s marked a major turning-point for Matsudaira. He no longer tried to combine Gagaku with neo-classicism, and embarked instead on a new attempt to integrate Gagaku with dodecaphonism, serialism, and other modern western techniques. Needless to say, this bold change in style was closely related to the western avant-garde movements after the 1950s, but it would not be right to think that he hated being regarded as one of the old generation and tried to go with the tide. Probably he saw here a more comfortable aesthetic position. Its serial, pointillistic sounds seemed to him a good vehicle for abstract, cold beauty, transcending human feelings. Its world of beauty was just what he desired. In addition to this, Gagaku is equipped with many elements that may fit with avant-garde music, among them dissonances caused by the use of polytonality and microtonality, aleatoric elements derived from free rhythm, slow and indistinct tempos, uneven rhythm, subtle glissandi. It was quite natural for Matsudaira to seek to fuse Gagaku and avant-garde music, since both are metaphysical, supra-emotional, non-secular and abstract into unique, weird music, where the ancient Orient and the modern Occident meet. Tcherepnin described Matsudaira’s neo-classical music as ever-lasting celestial sound, like the celesta’s sound. That celestial sound was further refined by the use of avant-garde techniques. He developed his own ‘secret’ skill of spinning a transparent twelve-tone series out of the basically pentatonic melody of Gagaku, while maintaining its original structure, and varying it freely, as well as his ‘magical’ technique of metamorphosing the rhythmic structure of Gagaku into more complex, more flexible and non-cyclic architecture, without sacrificing its innate character.

This new style was first applied to his Saibara Metamorphosis (1953), Prelude, Aria, Canon, Theme and Variations for the Radio (1954) and Figure Sonore (1956), and was never to change until the very last moment of his life, although it was deepened little by little and became more and more free. Like Charles Koechlin, Matsudaira wrote music day after day without commissions. He kept writing music without any prospect of performance and frequently entered the music festival held by the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM), winning many prizes. The reason he persisted in entering the ISCM festival was that he strongly hoped to demonstrate his abilities to Japanese critics. One of them, indeed, criticized his music as follows: ‘He is no more than a dilettante, who has no professional education. His skills are immature and his works will not be accepted on the international scene’.

Matsudaira’s avant-garde works were more often performed in Europe, especially at the ISCM festivals, than in Japan, and many distinguished musicians took up his pieces, including Hans Rosbaud, Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Michael Gielen, Ernest Bour, Francis Travis, Michel Tabachnik, Severino Gazzelloni, the Kontarskys and Yvonne Loriod. Messiaen’s Sept Ha’ka’ and Boulez’s Rituel were written under the influence of Matsudaira.

Matsudaira left many works even after 1950, his stylistic turning-point, including two operas and over fifty orchestral pieces. He died in Tokyo on 25th October, 2001, at the age of 94. Many of his works have yet to be performed. He is a composer now awaiting further discovery. Incidentally, his son Yoriaki Matsudaira is also a non-emotional composer. Many Japanese composers studied with Yoritsune Matsudaira, including Hifumi Shimoyama, Ryo Endo, Hidenao Ito, Kenjiro Ezaki and Kazuo Fukushima.

Matsudaira’s stylistic periods are roughly divided into two by the 1950s. The first period saw the combination of folk-song and Gagaku with French neoclassicism, and the second period witnessed the integration of Gagaku and post-war avant-garde methods.

Theme and Variations for piano and orchestra was written towards the end of the first period, but it already prefigures the arrival of the second period, as a twelvetone series is applied to some parts. Written in Tokyo from July to September 1951, the work won a prize at the 1952 ISCM festival and was first performed in Salzburg on 29th June of the same year, with Eva Wollman as soloist, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Ettore Gracis. In November of the same year, Herbert von Karajan took up the piece in Vienna, and he performed it again in Tokyo in 1954. This is the only Japanese work that Karajan ever conducted.

The main theme is taken from the Gagaku piece Banshikicho Eten-Raku. Banshikicho is one of the six tonalities of Gagaku. Gagaku is basically made up of two types of pentatonic scale: Ritsu (C-D-F-G-A, if started with C) and Ryo (C-D-E-G-A, if started with C). Theoretically various tonalities are possible from the two scale systems, but Gagaku uses only six of them: three tonalities based on the Ritsu system, beginning with E, A and B (called Hyodjo, Ohshikicho and Banshikicho, respectively), and another three based on the Ryo system, beginning with D, G and E (Ichikotsucho, Sodjo and Taishikicho, respectively). Banshikicho Eten-Raku, therefore, means “Eten-Raku played in the tonality of Banshikicho”. There exist two more Eten-Raku in Hyodjo and in Ohshikicho, but these three Eten-Raku are not just transposed ones and do not possess the same melody, as the hichiriki, which often plays the main theme, has a register of only one and a half octaves and is unable to play the transposed melody. In addition to this, each of the six tonalities of Gagaku has its own combinations of melodic patterns and modes of developing them, which means that each Eten-Raku has different melodies according to its tonality. This would never happen in the world of western music. Furthermore, despite the fact that Gagaku is based on one of the six tonalities, it is only the main theme that is controlled by the tonality. As a consequence, other tonalities and subtly changed pitches are added as the music develops, which imbues the whole music with elements of polytonality and dissonance. The six tonalities are theoretically based either on Ritsu or on Ryo, but in actual performances they were considerably changed by the Japanese inherent inclination for narrow intervals, which gives rise to many minor seconds that are not intrinsic to Ritsu and Ryo. Matsudaira loved to play with these mysterious rules of Gagaku and tirelessly enjoyed the discrepancy between theory and practice. Incidentally the orchestral arrangement of Eten-Raku by Hidemaro Konoye, contained in this Japanese Classics series (8.555071) is based on Hyodjo Eten-Raku, where melodies are heard that are quite different from those of Matsudaira’s Banshikicho Eten-Raku.

The work consists of the theme, six variations and finale. The theme played by the orchestra keeps the original Gagaku form as it is. The sounds of hichiriki and ryuteki are imitated by woodwind, chords on the sho are played by the violin section divided into three, the plucked sounds of the biwa and so are replaced by pizzicati, and various percussion effects peculiar to Gagaku are realised by snare drums and bass drums. In Variation I (Andante) the piano takes charge of the melodic figurations in Gagaku. Variation II (Allegro) is bitonal, as in Tansman and Milhaud. The frequent arpeggios on the piano are made by breaking up the chords on the sho. Variation III (Allegro), a kind of rondo in an A-B-C-A-B form, consists of the theme and three twelve-tone series derived from Hyodjo Eten- Raku (although its original form is not evident). This Variation III is one of the earliest examples of a Japanese composer using twelve-tone technique. Variation IV (Lento) is a bitonal nocturne. In Variation V (Allegro), Gagaku and jazz meet. The piano part of Variation VI (Allegro), a perpetual toccata, is based on the original biwa part. Variation VI leads seamlessly to the Finale (Lent), where the main theme is played solemnly and the sounds of Gagaku go far back to antiquity.

The other works included here were all written in the late 1950s, when Matsudaira entered his second period. While also seeking for materials in Gagaku, the moods are quite different from that of Theme and Variations for piano and orchestra. In these works he attempts to integrate Gagaku with dodecaphonism, total serialism and aleatoric methods.

U-Mai (Right Dance) was completed in Paris in 1957 and was first performed under the conductor Ernest Bour in Darmstadt on 11th September of the following year. Sa-Mai (Left Dance) was composed in Tokyo in 1958. After winning a prize at the ISCM festival, the work was first performed in Rome on 15th June, 1959, by Michael Gielen and the Naples Radio Chamber Orchestra. Danza Rituale e Finale (Enbou) was written in Tokyo in 1959 to a commission from NHK and was first given on 28th November of the same year by Hiroyuki Iwaki and the NHK Symphony. Independent pieces as they are, these three works can be considered as a set, since they are all controlled by a single series: A#-B-A-G#-G-D-C#-C-E-D#-F-F#. This series consists only of four crucial intervals in Gagaku (semitone, whole tone, major third and perfect fourth), which can endlessly produce Gagaku patterns. In addition to this, these three works have a close relationship with Bugaku (dance music) in Gagaku. Splitting the first part and the second part of Danza Rituale e Finale (Enbou) and rearranging each component in proper order will form a suite which fits traditional Bugaku performance. The performance in this recording follows this.

Bugaku was performed both for entertainment and religious purposes, and in the latter case Enbou was danced to purify the stage and the space. Enbou means ‘pike’, with which to exorcise the evil spirit. It is accompanied by two yokobues (flutes: ryuteki and komabue) and percussion, and it is thoroughly improvisational in mood. Solo and canon in duet by the yokobues alternate and the percussion punctuates. In Danza Rituale e Finale, Enbou is serially metamorphosed. The original solo by the yokobue is represented in the Preludietto and Coda (both scored for solo piccolo, triangle and bass drum), and the canon is treated in Preludio (scored for piccolo, flute, oboe, small clarinet and percussion). In Preludietto, Matsudaira employs aleatoric methods, following Stockhausen and Boulez, to express vividly the improvisational feeling of Enbou. Preludietto consists of thirteen fragments. The first one should be played first, but the rest can be shuffled. In Preludio, consisting of nine fragments, and Coda, with seven fragments, the order from the third onwards can be arranged freely. In this recording each fragment of Preludietto and Coda is tracked so that the listener can freely rearrange the order, but the fragments of Preludio are not tracked, because they are played without pause.

In traditional Bugaku, Enbou is followed by Sa-Mai (Left Dance) and then by U-Mai (Right Dance). Sa-Mai is performed by a dancer in red who appears from the left of the stage, and accordingly the movements of the left side of the body are stressed. There exist many pieces for Sa-Mai, most of which are said to have been Japanized after their introduction from ancient China. Instrumentation is only for wind and percussion, without strings. Its sound is noble and graceful, and the rhythm on percussion tends to be blurred. U-Mai is danced by a dancer in green who appears from the right side of the stage, and the movements of the right side of the body are emphasized. U-Mai is also reflected in many pieces, most of which are said to have been introduced from ancient Korea. Instrumentation is also for wind and percussion but, unlike Sa-Mai, without the sho (mouth organ) which produces celestial chords. As a consequence, the sounds of komabue and hichiriki (oboe) are heard with a distinct percussion ostinato rhythm. In that sense U-Mai is more simple, more powerful and more scherzo-like than Sa-Mai. Matsudaira’s Sa-Mai and U-Mai successfully reflect this left-against-right characteristic of Bugaku in its total serialistic sound.

Sa-Mai is based on the dance music Genjo-Raku in the Taishikicho tonality from Sa-Mai, and is scored for ten wind instruments including saxophone, a variety of percussion, celesta, harp, piano and fourteen strings (which mainly imitate the sho chords). Genjo-Raku is said to have originated in ancient China, depicting barbarians from the west (who customarily eat snakes) delighted to find snakes. In Introduzione the Enbou from Danza Rituale is played once again. The canonic Preludio accompanies the entry of the dancer (which is called Derute), Interludio depicts players tuning (Netori) before the main dance, Movimento Principale corresponds to the main dance, and the again canonic Finale accompanies the dancer’s exit (Irute).

U-Mai is based on the dance music Nasori in the Ichikotsucho tonality from U-Mai, and is scored for nine wind instruments, many kinds of percussion, harp, piano and string quartet. Nasori is said to be derived from the ancient Chinese court, depicting a couple (male and female) of dragons playing. This piece consists of three parts: Jo (Introduction), Ha (Development) and Kyu (Finale), each of which respectively corresponds to two dancers’ entry, excitement and exit. The latter half of Kyu with the ritardando mark accompanies the leaving dancers and, when they disappear, the music closes. This is because U-Mai, unlike Sa-Mai, does not have particular music for the dancers’ exit (Irute). The ritardando is improvisational, according to the scene. The composer instructs that Kyu can be terminated halfway, following the practice of U-Mai, although it is all played in this recording.

In the Bugaku performance, it is customary to play Chogeishi in the Taishikicho tonality without dance, after U-Mai and Sa-Mai. It is a noble piece composed by Hiromasa Minamaoto, a nobleman of the tenth century. The audience leave the hall while it is being played. Danza Finale is based on this Chogeishi and is scored for an irregular two-wind-based orchestra, including soprano and alto saxophones. The music is richer in timbre and more flexible in rhythm and tempo than Sa-Mai and U-Mai. The fantastic ritual of Bugaku Matsudaira created is closed by this colloidal, celestial music.

Morihide Katayama

Close the window