This marvellous CD offers three songs as well as the 12 parts of the opera "Izutsu". The ancient chant "Taiyo" is overdubbed on several vocal tracks by Makiko Sakurai to the accompaniment of Celtic harp, hurdy gurdy, and sitar. The effect is exquisite and transporting. "Ama No Umi" is a setting of a seventh century poem with Sakurai accompanied by an original instrument called a Dharma-Vina. The music has a decided Northern Indian effect (like Subulakshmi's recordings of the Meera Bhajans) where tonal chords underscore a modal tune. Based on words by Li Po, "Lament" is the story of childhood friends who become married and embarassed by the new intimacy. The contemporary melody and setting are most unusual and expressive. "Izutsu" is the masterpiece by Zeami (1363-1443) who is called the greatest writer of Noh plays. The richly timbred orchestration is for Celtic harp, hurdy-gurdy, psaltery, sitar-guitar, koto, ryuteki, hichiriki, and sho accompaning vocalist Sakurai and a chorus of three singers. The story, similar to "Lament", is about a boy and a girl who were childhood friends, get married, but drift apart. The boy becomes enamored of an empress, courting disaster. A traveling monk asks the girl to look back into the well near where the kids used to play and were happy. She sees the face of the boy in her own reflection. The music has both a great dignity, very much like ancient Gagaku (Japanese court music), and an intimate, at times mystical, expressiveness.
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AllMusic Review by "Blue" Gene Tyranny