Shunské Sato

Whirl Dance: Shunské Sato plays Akira Nishimura

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An hour of solo violin and viola music may seem to demand unusual powers of concentration, but these works by contemporary Japanese composer Akira Nishimura are quite accessible. All are tied together by the idea of ritual. In the Sonata II, "Trance Medium," for violin solo (2005), Nishimura writes that "the piece was not an attempt to sound" the detailed stage of experience through which a medium passes, but actually the course of the music is strongly evocative of the stages the composer describes. The composer's idiom is atonal but uses tonal centers, and, in the Fantasia on "Song of the Birds" for viola solo, an existing Spanish folk song, as ornamental temporary resting places in a delightful way. Nishimura's string writing is unusual and challenging without recourse to extended techniques.The Sonata II, "Mantra on the C string," for viola solo (2007) is written entirely for the viola's lowest string, and several pieces make either the violin or the viola produce small growls suggesting the abrupt nonverbal noises common to various forms of ritual communication. Perhaps the strongest feature of the album is the sound, recorded (although this was an all-Japanese production) in Vienna's Studio Baumgarten. The low string sounds take on an uncanny electronic effect, and the detail in the playing of the young Japanese virtuoso Shunské Sato, for whom much of the music was composed, is brilliantly displayed. Highly recommended. Notes are in Japanese and English, and, unlike with some of the Camerata label's other releases, the two versions seem to present the same text.

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