Toru Takemitsu

Music of Takemitsu

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Music of Takemitsu is performed by I Fiamminghi (the Orchestra of Flanders) and conducted by Rudolf Werthen. Nostalghia, a composition for solo violin (originally for Yehudi Menuhin) and string orchestra, was written in 1987, and its Italian title is also that of one of Russian director Andreï Tarkovski's films. The piece is not descriptive of the film's narrative but of a quiet, elegiac mood with images of mist and rain. A Way a Lone II is a version, scored for the full string section of the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, of the string quartet A Way a Lone, also written in 1981 (for the Toyko String Quartet). In this piece, Takemitsu achieves rich instrumental gestures (that exist independently and don't develop in the usual sense) by blending sensitive, unusual instrumental timbres with brief phrases influenced by the sonorous, thick contrapuntal writing of the early Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg, and to some extent Webern). The result is a wonderfully balanced work with a subtle sense of long form, in which motifs repeat but not in an obvious manner. There are many surprising sounds -- beautiful tremolo sections, surprising shifts from sul ponticello (near the bridge) to normal playing, tasteful uses of glissandi and sustained harmonics. Emotively, sometimes we hear bleak, isolated moments and at other times soaring romantic sighs. Toward the Sea II in three movements, scored for alto flute, harp, and string orchestra, is a version of "Toward the Sea" for alto flute and harp. The first movement is entitled "The Night" and opens with mysterious transitions (audio morphing) of hollow to normal tones on the flute, underscored with muted strings and rolling figures on the harp. Takemitsu employs a wide variety of special ways of playing the flute, including alternative fingerings, many varieties of vibrato, fluttertongue, trills, and combinations of the previous. The Night is richly harmonic with variations on impressionist chords. Like other Takemitsu works of his later period, there are large arcing gestures separated by silent grand pauses, like dream visions arising from nothingness, or in this case, the blackness of the night. The second movement is Moby Dick. It is like a high abstraction of sailing music, the "triplet-ness" of a sailor's jig (we never actually hear a jig, however) combined with floating arpeggios on complex chords and fluttering tremolos and high whistling harmonics of the winds. A haunting call and echo on the flute (in whole-tone scale) is varied throughout this movement, including a brief yet spectacular cadenza, and dies away at the end. In the third and last movement, entitled Cape Cod, simple sighing figures in triplet meter and duple meter develop into marvelously rich impressionist harmonies and arpeggiated motions that re-create the waves of the sea. A mysterious section with sustained string overtones, a steady-state harp-repeated minimalist figure, and slowly developing flute variations on the perfect fourth interval at the movement's opening makes a stunning, suspended effect.

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