Composer Jo Kondo is one of Japan's shining lights. Earthy, warm, and inviting, Kondo's sound world in the smaller works is based on physical movement, like walking from one place to the next. Rhythmic contexts are also brought into play for the variety of sonances and nuances they pose to smaller ensembles that might be reigned in by open space. Kondo's works typically -- and especially those found here -- liberate the smaller works and their ensembles by use of timbre, rhythm, and linearity; an entire work is based upon its opening melodic line. Among the pieces that best illustrate this method are "Walk" from 1976 and "An Elder's Hocket" from 1979. Both move straight out, ever furthering the original melodic idea through the use of fragmentary repetition and timbral shifts that alter color, mood, and even shade. They are highly nuanced and bright works, almost childlike in their singsong-y way. The Ensemble L'Art Pour L'Art, comprised of a flute, guitar, and percussion, is augmented here by various combinations of players, three of them to be exact on clarinet, harp, and piano. There is one work here written specifically for their strange makeup, "Winsen Dance Step," from 1995. This work's unusually complex melodic line is one that covers its harmonic body as well. The architecture is equally dependent on the varying timbral sonances the guitar provides as it is on the subtler sonic shadings of the vibes and frontal lyric line of the flute. Interestingly, this CD is far from representative of the body of Kondo's work. The composer usually works from a larger framework, a bigger palette of instruments and colors. These smaller works provided a greater challenge in that they were supposed to represent, or at least present a way into Kondo's signature from a reduced perspective. The Ensemble L'Art Pour L'Art has, with the help of their counterparts, accomplished this with verve and aplomb, highlighting in micro, Kondo's importance to the world as a composer of very human, very perceptible yet somewhat mysteriously beautiful chamber works.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek