Toru Takemitsu

Works for Chamber Music 1: Distance de Fée (1951)/Hika (1966)/From Far

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Beautifully performed by various soloists and the fabulous Arditti String Quartet. The title of the exquisite "From Far Beyond Chrysanthemums and November Fog" for violin and piano is taken from a stanza of Makoto Ooka's poem "In the Shadows." There is a row of six tones that the composer described as "shadowed" by a complementary row of the other six tones of the chromatic scale. In this work, a basic pointillist Webern-like sound becomes bent (perhaps, "re-interpreted" is a better word) toward Takemitsu's delicate image painting. Takemitsu often described his method of composition as creating "perspective drawings" using notes to make larger gestures on paper, and one can really hear that approach at work here. Almost all the gestures in this work take the simple asymmetric form of a richly varied, ascending accumulation followed by a much briefer descent. This is accomplished with great sensitivity and invention. "Hika" for violin and piano is a beautiful duet that shares many of the characteristics of the composers writing style in "Le Son Calligraphie I - III." There are graceful arcing phrases that seem to appear from the silence and then return there. The tonal style is a kind of open 12-tone lyricism. But the tone of this piece is more sorrowful than the "calligraphies," with sudden bursts of dramatic emotion. The use of longer tones and larger skips in register gives a hint of romanticism to this work. The ending leaves us hanging, more like a doubt half-expressed than an unanswered question.