Kotaro Fukuma

Toru Takemitsu: Piano Music

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Many of the 11 solo piano works recorded here, particularly Piano Distance, For Away, the two Les Yeux Clos, and the two Rain Tree Sketches, have been performed enough to have moved from being novelties to being part of the standard repertoire of twentieth century piano music. One of the values of this extraordinarily fine collection is the perspective it offers on the span of the composer's career -- the program is organized chronologically and ranges from Takemitsu's first surviving piano piece, written when he was 19, to his last, written in 1992. As a sort of appendix, the collection ends with two children's pieces and Litany, a 1989 reworking of two pieces he wrote in 1950. What's perhaps most astonishing about this survey is the light it casts on the consistency of Takemitsu's aesthetic ideals. While his compositional technique developed considerably and branched into a variety of directions, the germ of his artistic core -- a reverence for silence; an unhurried, unforced approach to letting sounds unfold at the leisurely pace they require; and an exquisite gestural and textural sensitivity -- is evident in his 1949 Romance. The classic mature works, cited above, grow in stature on repeated hearings, evidence of a gift for synthesis that resulted in one of the most distinctive and individual voices in late twentieth century composition. Japanese pianist Kotaro Fukuma, who had established a substantial international career in a widely varied repertoire by his early twenties, plays not only with delicacy, but with strength. This music may be quiet and atmospheric, but it's not wispy and ephemeral, and Fukuma's playing brilliantly captures its frequently overlooked structural integrity without sacrificing its evocative gentleness. Naxos' sound is clear, clean, and natural. Fukuma's excellent performances makes this CD valuable both for listeners who already love Takemitsu's music and as an introduction for anyone just discovering his work.

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