Jun Märkl / Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Toshio Hosokawa: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1

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The music of contemporary Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa is best known in his native Japan and in Germany, where he was trained. This Naxos release may broaden his reputation a bit. As with so many other Japanese composers, Hosokawa draws inspiration from the natural world. That's in evidence in two of these three pieces, all of which receive their world premieres here. All of the works develop from a more or less static state (very static in the case of the Horn Concerto "Moment of Blossoming," which draws out that moment to extreme detail) and introduce pictorial material or, in the case of the final Chant (2009), spiritual material. That work is inspired by Japanese Buddhist singing. Perhaps the most effective of the three works is the piano concerto Lotus Under the Moonlight, subtitled "Hommage à Mozart." In much of the work the nature of the homage is hidden, but the theme of the slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, emerges with lovely effect. None of the works is mechanistically programmatic, and all add some kind of commentary after the main material has been sketched out, with satisfying effect. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra under German-Japanese conductor Jun Märkl performs admirably in this rather difficult material; the gradual opening of the flower at the beginning of the first piece is beautifully sustained. Recommended for anyone curious about the contemporary Japanese scene.

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