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Akira Nishimura: Orchestral Works / Limori, Wurttemberg

Release Date: 12/11/2007 
Label:  Camerata Records   Catalog #: 28126   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Akira NishimuraDavid Loeb
Performer:  Ayako Shinozaki
Conductor:  Norichika IimoriMichiyoshi InoueTsugio Maeda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Württemberg Philharmonie ReutlingenIzumi Sinfonietta OsakaSlovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

NISHIMURA Violin Concerto No. 2, “Mani.” 1 Harp Concerto, “Born on the Wind.” 2 East-Asian Fantasy. 3 Fanfare for Orchestra 4 Michiyoshi Inoue, cond; 1 Tetsuji Honna, cond; 2 Tsugio Maeda, cond; Read more class="SUPER12">3 Norichika Iimori, cond; 4 Miyo Umezu (vn); 1 Ayako Shinozaki (hp); 2 Tokyo SO; 1 Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka; 2 Slovak St P; 3 Württemberg P 4 CAMERATA 28126 (74:27)

I recall being very impressed with Akira Nishimura’s First Violin Concerto upon reviewing it for this magazine seven years ago ( Fanfare 24:1); and in going back to re-familiarize myself with that review, I discovered that my generalized description of the music could serve in this case as well—which is not to suggest that the Second Violin Concerto is a rehash of the First, but that the composer’s basic perspective remains intact even as his powers of imagination and dramatic expression have increased. What I then characterized as Nishimura’s “ingenious complexity of orchestral writing . . . somewhere between Ligeti and Xenakis in its constellation of unusual sonorities” along with the “passionate intensity” of his music are still the hallmarks of his brilliant Violin Concerto No. 2 (2001), and if anything the sustained lyricism of the solo-writing is even more intense and engaging. The concerto begins with resonating metallic timbres—images of light and energy—and over the course of its four movements exploits fascinating, occasionally chilling orchestral textures intended to represent the gemlike purity and energy found in Buddhist symbolism (“mani” is translated as “gem”). The violin line, swooping and soaring throughout, rhapsodic in the third movement, broadly chromatic and ripe with double-stops and slurs in the fourth, heroically pulls the music along, whether in harmony with or aggressively confronting the orchestral ambiance. The effect is radiant.

The 2004 Harp Concerto’s subtitle, “Born on the Wind,” is meant to illustrate Nishimura’s vision of the harp as an instrument of light and wind. A composer who has written extensively for the traditional Japanese koto, Nishimura emphasizes the harp’s similar qualities—its bristling percussiveness and bite, and sparse, almost weightless airiness. By way of contrast, the orchestral component here is heavier, more compact and powerful than in the Second Violin Concerto, liable to drift and then suddenly explode with growling brass or ringing chimes. It’s an attractive piece, but without the Violin Concerto’s magic. Likewise the Fanfare for Orchestra (2006), a brief six-minute albeit flamboyant work, as the title implies, which is rather reminiscent of a soundtrack for a Hollywood epic set in the “mystical and enchanting” East.

The East-Asian Fantasy (2000) is something else again—a substantial “orchestra concerto” in the words of the composer, who here draws upon various elements of Japanese Gagaku as well as Korean, Shinto, Indian, and Balinese music. The combination of these distinctive styles should result in a mishmash, but instead Nishimura’s expertise and imagination fashion a dramatic, colorful score from ceremonial brass, microtonal reeds, thunderous percussion, and richly layered strings.

Despite the participation of four different orchestras and conductors in these four pieces, the performances are consistently fine. The impressive East-Asian Fantasy and exceptional Violin Concerto No. 2 are highly recommended, and likely to make this disc a strong contender for this year’s Want List.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 2 "Mani" by Akira Nishimura
Conductor:  Norichika Iimori
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Württemberg Philharmonie Reutlingen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; Japan 
Concerto for Harp, "Born on the Wind" by Akira Nishimura
Performer:  Ayako Shinozaki (Harp)
Conductor:  Michiyoshi Inoue
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004; USA 
Fantasias (3) on East Asian Modes by David Loeb
Conductor:  Tsugio Maeda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 

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