Yasuko Kawamura

Yasuko Kawamura plays Takashi Yoshimatsu

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Although Camerata's Atom Hearts Club: Yasuko Kawamura Plays Takashi Yoshimatsu looks like a solo piano recital, it is actually a disc of chamber music that contains a couple of short piano pieces, as well. The two Atom Hearts Club trios appear to be retreadings of older works; Atom Hearts Club Trio I, Op. 70d (2005), relates to his Atom Hearts Club Quartet, Op. 70 (1997), and Atom Hearts Club Trio II, Op. 79b (2007), is based on his Atom Hearts Club Suite II, Op. 79 (1999), which was scored for 12 cellos. Beyond that, these are strongly jazzy pieces with some overtures toward pop music, and classical purists will not like them at all, though others with more open minds -- and perhaps exposure to some of Claude Bolling's "suites" of the 1970s and '80s -- will find them entertaining. And these two suites score some points, particularly the second one -- the "Aggressive Rocks" movement in that work has a nice propulsive quality and the "Brothers Blues" has a lovely, sighing quality to the melody that is more distinctively Asian in character than post-modern. The Atom Hearts Club Trios are not quite to the level of his Stellar Dream Dances, Op. 89, or the best of the Pleiades Dances, but they are enjoyable nevertheless.

The Digital Bird Suite, Op. 15 (1982), is an early Yoshimatsu work that stands halfway between his serialist style and more populist approach adopted down the line, though the first movement is perhaps more reminiscent of Bolling than anything else on this disc, save the broken up bits of pointillism that interrupt the melodic line. Yoshimatsu is firmly in his mature element by the Piano Quartet "Airisha," Op. 30 (1987), scored for the interesting combination of flute, violin, cello, and piano, though there are some gestures in the first movement that recall the work of Louis Andriessen. This quartet, in seven short movements, tends to ramble a bit and has a strongly pandiatonic profile that gets a little monotonous, though this does not mean that work is entirely without some stunning moments, which it definitely has.

As a showcase for pianist Yasuko Kawamura, one wonders if Camerata's Atom Hearts Club: Yasuko Kawamura Plays Takashi Yoshimatsu is successful at all; the player who really stands out here is flutist Haruyuki Nakatsukasa, who goes beyond the call of duty in performing these works and literally steals the show. The two solo piano pieces are short and seem like outtakes from the Pleiades Dances; on their own, they don't really leave a distinct impression. As a selection of Yoshimatsu's chamber music, this disc is useful, informative, and intermittently entertaining, though for first contact with Yoshimatsu's music one should look elsewhere.

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