Kosei Hayama / Mami Koshigoe / Takehiko Yamada

Toru Takemitsu: Songs

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Takemitsu's songs, many of which were written for film scores, are hardly recognizable as the work of the composer of delicate but distinctly modernist orchestral and chamber music. These songs could easily be mistaken for popular music of the 1930s and 1940s: cabaret songs, melancholy French chansons, soulful ballads, Latin-tinged dances, and jazz standards. Takemitsu had an impeccable ear for capturing the right idioms, both vocal and pianistic, for the popular styles. The songs are immediately accessible and should appeal to fans of jazz-influenced vocal music of the mid-20th century. Most are sung in Japanese, but some are in French, German, or Spanish. Soprano Mami Koshigoe and tenor Kosei Hayama sound like they are trained in the Western operatic tradition, and their singing seems like an attempt at crossover that doesn't quite hit the mark. Hayama has some serious vocal problems -- a weak lower register, breathing and intonation issues, a thin tone, and unfocused vibrato -- that keep his performances from being very satisfying. Koshigoe is generally vocally more secure, but neither singer seems at ease in the popular idioms, and they fail to put the songs across with maximum impact. Pianist Takehiko Yamada provides beautifully idiomatic accompaniments, and his improvisations are completely convincing. The album includes exactly the same repertoire (in the same order, even) as the 2007 Haenssler Classics album of the songs featuring counter tenor Dominique Visse and pianist François Couturier. On just about every count, Visse's versions are more idiomatically and beautifully sung, the only caveat being that he sings some of the Japanese songs in English. For listeners looking to explore Takemitsu's songs, the performances by Visse and Couturier offer a far more pleasing experience than this one.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:26
2 3:18
3 1:59
4 1:30
5 1:25
6 3:52
7 2:30
8 2:58
9 3:34
10 1:42
11 2:40
12 6:03
13 3:17
14 3:24
15 2:48
16 1:59
17 2:18
18 1:43
19 4:32
20 2:04
21 5:05
blue highlight denotes track pick