Satoko Inoue

Japan Piano 1996: Satoko Inoue

(CD - Hat Hut Records / Hat[now]Art #103)

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This debut recording by the auspicious Japanese pianist Satoko Inoue is doubly so because of its program: eight works by Japanese composers. Inoue is well-known for a repertoire of 20th century classical music by composers as diverse as Feldman, Cage, Varese, Debussy, and Ives. To choose for her debut recording the works of Japanese composers as diverse as Toru Takemitsu, Jo Kondo, Mamorou Fujieda, Sesshu Kai, and the father of all Nippon composers from the last century, Yoritsune Matsudaira. Given the difference between pre- and post-World War II Japan, it is of no surprise that the stylistic differences between composers born before and after the war would be great. All of them hold within them, however, one distinct quality: to offer the emotional essence of the object considered. Inoue wisely structures her program to convey the essentialist nature of all the works she performs. In Takemitsu's "Rain Tree Sketch I," the effect is glistening, quieted, where p and pp are woven throughout the score and timbral variations are held to a minimum without being austere. In Matsudaira's "Hyojo" section of his "Three Improvisations in the Mode of Ristu," phrases are notes singled out to carry the weight of emotion. And here there is great austerity, and solemnity, though she has room in the score to move the single notes into the spaces of the few clusters. From the post World War II composers, the loveliest work in the bunch -- save for Takemitsu's -- is Fujieda's "Gyro Tango" from 1995. Fujieda, who has been working in very complex areas of electronic music (measuring the growth of plants in sound, etc.), is a master of both pitch and rondo. His score is circular and scalular. It's a tango for the piano, a dance of love and death where interval and harmony are the two partners. Inoue effortlessly winds these two elements of the score together then escorts as they cascade further from the root of the dance and into the heart of music itself. There is nothing on this record to compare it to, and perhaps nothing in the realm of piano music either. Inoue is masterful in her command of the languages demanded of her here. Her attention to detail and impression are balanced intuitively. Indeed, as this recording so impressively suggests, Inoue may be the artist to finally bridge the river between the two musical Japans.

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