Toru Takemitsu

Tsubasa (Wings): A String Around Autumn (1989) for viola and orchestra/An

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One of the most interesting of the many recordings released in memoriam of Takemitsu since his passing in 1996, this CD contains a variety of chamber works, songs of serious and whimisical character, and pieces written in memoriam of other composers. Played by various soloists and the Saito Kinen Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa with the Shin-Yu Kai Choir. "A String Around Autumn" was commissioned by the Festival d'Automne รก Paris as part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. The title may have been intended to encompass both the images of a piece for a string instrument (the solo viola, in this instance) and a festival happening during the autumn of the year (the Festival d'Autumne). In any case, this is a magnificient and subtle piece scored for a Debussy-like symphonic orchestra (French Romantic period size plus two harps and extended percussion). The viola part throughout is virtuosic and more declarative than most of Takemitsu's sound-painting orchestral works. The basic gesture of its melody, often taken over by the orchestra, is of an upward climb taken in increasingly larger steps. One can imagine speeches and poetry in an autumnal landscape of rich harmonies. At the conclusion, we are left with an unresolved thirteenth chord (C major over open D) in the strings that holds promises for the future (the ascending figures in all the other sections of the orchestra, and the final declarations of the viola), and yet there is an autumnal feeling (the non-vibrato, to vibrato, to non-vibrato sustained strings, plus the concluding extreme range harmonics in the solo viola) that surrounds those hopes.