Paul Crossley

Takemitsu: Complete Works for Solo Piano

(CD - Gmn.com #114)

Review by

Toru Takemitsu composed only a small amount of piano music, but this cycle is one of the most significant to be found in the second half of the twentieth century. There are numerous recordings of Takemitsu's piano music that claim to be "complete," but when Paul Crossley's Toru Takemitsu: Complete Works for Solo Piano appeared on the GMN label in 2000, it was more so than most, as it included the first recordings of Takemitsu's Piano Pieces for Children (1979) and his early Romance (1948-1949), which was discovered among Takemitsu's papers after his death. Crossley's disc has formed something of a template for other complete Takemitsu piano collections since, and Crossley was wise to include his own meditation on Takemitsu's Mystére (1989) under the title of A Vision of Takemitsu to differentiate his collection from all others.

Here, the GMN album Toru Takemitsu: Complete Works for Solo Piano is re-released on the CRD label from Britain. Crossley enjoyed an association with Takemitsu late in the composer's life and had hoped for an original piece written for him, but as he states, "It was not to be." Although some listeners might find Crossley's scattering of the chronology a little perplexing, the performances are generally strong, particularly of the Rain-Tree Sketch and the two pieces titled Les yeux clos and the Litany -- in Memory of Michael Vyner. Crossley feels perhaps a little less sympathy for harder-edged, more experimental pieces such as Piano Distance, but delivers them with care and respect. Crossley reserves his greatest sympathy, though, for pieces that reflect the influence of French Impressionism, the part of the repertoire Crossley has concerned himself most in terms of recordings and a very significant influence on Takemitsu, who was sort of an heir to the French manner even though he was Japanese and self-taught in composition. Crossley's soft-hued, warm, and restrained performances do not sparkle mysteriously like Noriko Ogawa's and he does not employ the aggression and otherness that typifies Roger Woodward's celebrated 1974 Takemitsu recording, though that's probably just as well; that is a unique reading with its own historic place in the context of Takemitsu's music. However, Crossley performs these pieces in a constantly unfolding, narrative manner with plenty of light, shade, and color; a different kind of authority on Takemitsu's piano compositions and an altogether welcome perspective on them.

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