Takashi Yoshimatsu is one of the most prolific and popular of contemporary Japanese composers. Born in 1953 in Tokyo, his earliest inspiration to pursue music came as he watched his younger sister practicing the piano at home. He entered Keio University as an engineering student, but turned to music, teaching himself composition and studying with Teizo Matsumara. Yoshimatsu was exposed to a multitude of musical idioms growing up in Japan, andRead more performed with jazz and rock bands in his 20s before turning to serious concert music. As a composer of concert music, Yoshimatsu's preference is for "new lyricism," and an avoidance of the unmusical characteristics (and, especially, the atonalism) of much modern concert music. His career as a composer began in the late '70s; in 1980, he won the Japan Symphony Foundation Prize for his Dorian for Orchestra. His work has utilized Japanese instruments such as the koto in a chamber music context, but has also embraced such traditional European forms as the symphony and the piano concerto. Yoshimatsu draws from a vast range of musical influences, including rock and jazz; his cultural influences include his native Japan -- his Symphony No. 1 "Kamui-Chikap" takes its name from the Ainu word for "God Bird;" and his Concerto for guitar "Pegasus Effect" takes part of its name from Japanese mythology, though it also owes a musical debt to American jazz and rock. It also extends to elements of European classical music and traditional African music, as displayed in his Symphony No. 2. A significant part of his output, which consisted of more than 60 works by the mid-'90s, is very personal in inspiration, including Ode to Birds and Rainbow, written in memory of his younger sister (who died in 1994), and Threnody to Toki, inspired by Yoshimatsu's feelings of loss on the death of the last toki -- a rare species of bird -- on Japan's main island. The latter is one of his most popular works and utilizes a piano, two groups of strings, and a bass all physically arranged (with the conductor at the head) to represent the shape of a bird. He has received commissions from the Japan Symphony Foundation, and in the 1990s, Chandos Records undertook the recording of Yoshimatsu's work, in conjunction with the BBC Philharmonic under Sachio Fujioka and by the Manchester Camerata. Read less
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