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Mayuzumi: Bugaku, Mandala Symphony / Yuasa, New Zealand So

Release Date: 12/13/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557693   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Toshiro Mayuzumi
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

For those who still complain about the absence of listenable Western traditional music—some say since Stravinsky, others Mahler—I say: user-friendly music is ubiquitous in film scores. And it isn’t necessarily Western-sounding either, or recent. Toshiro Mayuzumi (1930–1996) is a good example of such a composer. Interestingly, he wrote the music to John Huston’s The Bible in 1966. Huston was going to use Stravinsky, but the crusty director couldn’t get around the copyright issues, so he hired the newly famous avant-garde composer Mayuzumi. Imagine being asked to score The Holy Book itself. Handel only had to do Isaiah. I’ve obtained the album (20th Century Fox Records S4184), and it’s a hoot. Once you stop giggling at the cast list—Peter Read more O’Toole as The Three Angels, Ulla Bergryd as Eve—you’ll notice that Mayuzumi wrote an uncanny and very un-Hollywood-like score which nevertheless was nominated for an Academy Award. My point in mentioning John Huston’s The Bible is to reiterate how film has traditionally employed composers from the so-called classical world, such as Korngold, Hermann, and John Williams—and it’s great music. In fact, these film composers, including Mayuzumi and his countryman Toru Takemitsu (1930–1996), may become the musical icons of our age. Composers like Mayuzumi and Takemitsu also created a mini-revolution in which world music has become part of our compositional landscape, just as intercontinental fusion has taken over the culinary world.

This CD does not contain Mayuzumi’s film music, however, though there is one ballet—but he wrote much more than film scores over the last 50 years, and this CD is a sampling of his non-film music from 1948 through 1960.

In 1951, Mayuzumi studied at the Conservatoire in Paris, where he was exposed to the music of Messiaen and Boulez, two other experimenters in fusion music. Throughout Mayuzumi’s career, he experimented with Romanticism, jazz, Indian and Balinese music, and later incorporated synthetic electronic music, prepared piano, and serial methods into his compositions.

Symphonic Mood, (1950), the first selection on this CD, was Mayuzumi’s first orchestral piece. It’s a spicy blend of Asian and Latin in a crust of Messiaen with just a dollop of Hollywood. Bugaku, (1962), the next selection, was commissioned by the New York City Ballet and choreographed by George Balanchine. The music is based on traditional Japanese court music. Mandala Symphony (1960) uses Buddhist-inspired musical allusions to create a dialogue between tranquility and agitation, the struggle of the self to achieve inner peace. Finally, Rumba Rhapsody is a rousing—just what did you expect, a waltz?—rumba, again blending traditional Japanese courtliness with Latin beat, traditional formal meets hot blooded Dionysian. All the music is complex and surprising, and it demonstrates how 1950s Paris conservatory music (Messiaen, Copland, Rorem)—cross-pollinated with international music, ethnic music, so-called primitive music, serial music, and (chiefly) influenced by film—morphed into the eclectic fare we have today, including neo-Romanticism and minimalism. But even in a non-historical sense, Mayuzumi is worth listening to because he respected his own cultural heritage and at the same time admired the Western tradition—so he created a gratifying meiosis involving the two. One gripe: why no music from after 1960?

The New Zealand SO under Takuo Yuasa does a dynamic job of straddling the Asian-inspired and Latin-inspired realms. The recording quality is excellent.

FANFARE: David Wolman
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Works on This Recording

Bugaku by Toshiro Mayuzumi
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; Japan 
Mandala Symphony by Toshiro Mayuzumi
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; Tokyo, Japan 
Rumba Rhapsody by Toshiro Mayuzumi
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Japan 
Symphonic Mood by Toshiro Mayuzumi
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Tokyo, Japan 

Sound Samples

Symphonic Mood: I. Moderato: Allegro moderato
Symphonic Mood: II. Vivo
Bugaku: I. Lento
Bugaku: II. Moderato - Un poco meno mosso - Allegretto - Lento
Mandala Symphony: I. Vajra-dhatu mandala: Tempo non equilibre
Mandala Symphony: II. Garbha-dhatu mandala: Extremement lent
Rumba Rhapsody

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