Winter and Winter's release of chamber music by Fumio Yasuda, Heavenly Blue, is in a super-deluxe package -- a larger than average, thick cardboard "Smartpak" printed in bright gold with blue and light blue lettering; even the UPC code is embossed. Inside, one finds eight pages of illustrations drawn from vintage Japanese postcards that are very appealing to the eye. What one does not find is a single word about the intent of Heavenly Blue, nor any information on its composer, though performer credits and recording datum are covered in the usual detail.
From what little can be gleaned from the web and other sources, Fumio Yasuda is a jazz pianist who has also created a considerable number of works within a classical vein, with Heavenly Blue being his fourth release for Winter & Winter. Despite the insert photos, Yasuda's music isn't in the least Japanese; rather he is a pan-European poly-stylist. While this music bears some traces of a jazzy or new-agey sensibility, it most strongly resembles the work of contemporary European film composers, such as Wojciech Kilar.
The longer works included on Heavenly Blue are Imaginary Films, a concerto for piano and strings featuring the composer in the solo part, and an Accordion Concerto, written for Teodoro Anzellotti. The shorter pieces have more appeal, with the Tango in Amesa featuring a post- Piazolla-styled tango flanked by strings performing a gritty take on Antonio Vivaldi's manner. The title work, Heavenly Blue, is a tiny, ethereal piano solo and the only thing on the disc that sounds even vaguely Japanese; Epitaph 1939 is a somber piece for strings that sounds a lot like Kilar, and the brief Rain Choral is played by the strings without vibrato, reminiscent of some works of John Cage.
A good deal of the music is immediate and easy to enjoy, yet there is an equal amount of clangor for every patch of blue sky exposed. Some parts of Heavenly Blue challenge the notion that contemporary composers have forgotten how to write music, and yet the brand of free-reed torture that occurs in the Accordion Concerto will nonetheless only confirm that view. Heavenly Blue will obviously find more of a following in Europe than in the United States, but even with that taken into consideration, it is hard to know who this music is supposed to be for, such is the schizoid nature of the collection.