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Hayasaka: Piano Concerto, Etc / Okada, Yablonsky, Russian Po

Release Date: 09/26/2006 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557819   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Fumio HayasakaHumiwo Hayasaka
Performer:  Hiromi Okada
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HAYASAKA Piano Concerto. Ancient Dances on the Left and on the Right. Overture in D Dmitry Yablonsky, cond; Russian PO; Hiromi Okada (pn) NAXOS 8.557819 (52: 51)

If you’re a film buff, you’ve probably heard music composed by Humiwo Hayasaka (1914–55) even if the name is unfamiliar; among his many soundtracks are those to director Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and Read more style="font-style:italic">Rashomon . According to program annotator Morihide Katayama, Hayasaka served as organist in a Catholic church in Sapporo when he was 21, and thus his formative studies in Western classical music focused on Gregorian chant—in which he found similarities to traditional Japanese melodies and modes—as well as Satie, Stravinsky, and, naturally, Debussy. Throughout his life he was active in societies and organizations that promoted new music, collaborating with composers like Akira Ifukube, Yoritsume Matsudaira, and even the young Toru Takemitsu, and by the 1950s he adapted into his music elements of atonality alongside traditional Japanese influences. His death at age 41 was the result of a long battle with tuberculosis.

Hayasaka’s unconventional approach to blending Eastern and Western sources energize these three scores. The Overture, entered into a competition celebrating the Japanese Imperial Year 2600 (1940), is part-bolero and part-march, constructed from pseudo-Japanese motifs (avoiding actual pentatonic modes and folk quotations) and building to a rousing conclusion—very much like something from a John Williams film score, decades before the fact. Ancient Dances (1941), on the other hand, is a lyrical fantasy based upon the juxtaposition of “right” and “left” symbols drawn from Nature, dance, society, and music, alternating between traditional and classically derived phrases. Most curious, however, is Hayasaka’s two-movement Piano Concerto (1948). Beginning with a slow, somber, Brucknerian introduction of brass and winds intoning over droning strings, the first movement proceeds through a series of dark, morose episodes that inspire a dour, Rachmaninoff-like piano commentary. (Annotator Katayama reveals this movement is a requiem for the composer’s brother and other victims of war.) By way of shocking contrast, the fanfare that opens the second movement kicks off a brisk, playful romp with more than a few echoes of Gershwin (there’s a rhythmic figure right out of An American in Paris ) and Shostakovich in his lighter moments, fueled by crisp, lilting piano filigree, deftly whipping several traditional Japanese modes into a cosmopolitan froth. Yin and Yang indeed.

Naxos’s yeoman conductor Yablonsky and his orchestra provide convincing performances, and pianist Okada smoothly negotiates the challenging, if incongruous, moods that the concerto tosses his way. If you’re curious about mid-century Japanese composers, especially the various ways they reconcile traditional and European resources, Hayasaka offers something out of the ordinary.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano by Humiwo Hayasaka
Performer:  Hiromi Okada (Piano)
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; Japan 
Ancient Dances on the Left and on the Right by Humiwo Hayasaka
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; Japan 
Overture in D major by Humiwo Hayasaka
Conductor:  Dmitry Yablonsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Japan 

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