German pianist Gerhard Oppitz is known mostly for his recordings of music of the 19th century, but he has had a long interest in Japanese culture and music. With the exception of Toru Takemitsu (whose Rain-Tree Sketch is not among his better-known works in any case), the composers he samples here have rarely been performed in the West, and Oppitz renders valuable service as a guide. Most interesting may be the opening Suite: On the Waters' Edge of Keiko Fujiie (born 1963), whose 12 movement titles suggest its pictorial quality. The work reflects neither Impressionist snapshots of Japan nor traditional materials; however, its vivid, dynamic images are rendered in precise, almost minimal strokes derived economically from small musical units. Sample track 5, "A Dream of Floating in a Swimmingpool at Midnight," to hear Fujiie's sparse yet wonderfully evocative language. She seems to have been influenced by Takemitsu but to have avoided the jazz influences and the darkly dramatic qualities of his music. The final work, Saburo Moroi's Piano Sonata No. 2, is also unusual: it is in a Germanic style, somewhat resembling that of Hindemith, but there is something still quintessentially Japanese about it, residing mostly in the phrasing. In between are the short Takemitsu piece and the puzzlingly surreal La Terre est Bleue comme une Orange (The Earth Is Blue Like an Orange) by Shin-Ichiro Ikebe; these are diverting intermezzi at best, but the Fujiie work is worth the price by itself. So, too, is the engineering from the crack team at the Hänssler Classic label.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|On the Waters' Edge, suite|
|Klaviersonate, No. 2|