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David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2007

Born in 1886, Kosaku Yamada was one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century, having written over 1500 scores, many destroyed in the Second World War. He had been trained in Germany with Max Bruch among his tutors, and became known in his native Japan as the first native musician to form a symphony orchestra in the country. Though he became a potent force there, introducing many Western works to his audiences, over the years he became increasingly attracted to conducting in Europe. You do sense in his music a guilt complex that he had become Westernised, and to counter that feeling tried to integrate the two very differing cultures. One such work was the Nagauta Symphony, where he simply grafts on a symphonic backdrop to the 19th century composition,Tsurukame, played and sung by musicians of Nagauta. Western ears are really sailing into uncharted territory with sounds that will provoke strong reactions. I can only add that I respect Yamada's intentions with the fact that the Nagauta vocalists are part of Japanese culture. I was pleased to reach the second track, Sinfonia 'Inno Meiji', and to be reunited with the Yamada I reviewed on a Naxos disc back in June 1993, and who could write the most sensual music described as influenced by Richard Strauss, but in which I find equal quantities of French Impressionism. The Sinfonia has a story of the journey Japan took from 1850 to the creation of a new entity in the 20th century, and emerges as a most attractive score. Maria Magdalena was originally intended as a three-act ballet based on the biblical story, but Yamada progressed no further than an orchestration of second act from his piano draft. There is Scriabin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Strauss here in rather equal measures, and if derivative, Yamada was so skilled in orchestration as to arrive at a highly attractive product. The disc seems to have been derived from a concert, the Tokyo orchestra well versed in producing sensual beauty. Sound quality, which comes from an outstanding Japanese team, is excellent.





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