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Yamada: Nagauta Symphony, Etc / Miyata, Ajimi, Yuasa, Et Al

Release Date: 08/28/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557971   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Kosaku Yamada
Performer:  Toru AjimiShiro MinodaYutaka MiyataGojiro Sakamoto,   ... 
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony OrchestraTouon
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

YAMADA Nagauta Symphony. 1 Inno Meiji. Maria Magdalena Takuo Yuasa, cond; Tetsuo Miyata (voc); 1 Toshimitsu Muraji (voc); 1 Taro Yamaguch (voc); 1 Jun Ajimi (voc); 1 Keizo Miyata (voc); 1 Tokyo Metropolitan SO Read more class="ARIAL12"> NAXOS 8.557971 (51:31)

This is the second Naxos release devoted to the “father” of Japanese orchestral music, Kósçak Yamada (1886–1965); I reviewed the first in Fanfare 28: 2. Yamada had a dual career as composer and conductor; following three years of musical study in Germany, he returned to Japan, initiated the effort that resulted in the founding of the NHK Symphony Orchestra (that country’s first), gave the Japanese premiere of the Shostakovich First Symphony and many other modern scores, and conducted the New York, Leningrad, and Berlin Philharmonics, including, remarkably, leading the latter in a recording of his own music.

As the works in the previous release show, Yamada’s earliest compositional influences were heavily Germanic and Austrian—no surprise given his educational background. Here too, the “choreographic symphony” Maria Magdalena , which he began in 1916 as a ballet and two years later excerpted and orchestrated for a performance in New York, is really a tone poem in the Straussian (Richard, of course) mold, with some Wagner (borrowed from Parsifal and Lohengrin ) for its pious atmosphere. But it still sounds like a student work, as innumerable short themes stop and start—rationalized by program annotator Morihide Katayama as reflecting the Japanese aesthetic, “where ephemerality and subtle changes of moment are preferred to logical construction”; nevertheless the effect is slow moving and frequently congested.

Yamada’s originality and his ultimate influence on subsequent Japanese composers emerged as he began to blend elements of traditional Japanese music into his symphonic scores. Inno Meiji (1921) may be his masterpiece, as he integrates ethnic instruments into the orchestral palette while emphasizing the symbolic, if not strictly programmatic, attitude of court and folk music. A tribute to the “Westernizing” of Japan during the Meiji Period (1868–1912), Inno Meiji still offers European classical tonality with a romantic sweep, but amid the Straussian episodes and Scriabinesque harmonies there are darker, psychologically motivated passages and isolated instrumental colors that suggest a personal voice. By 1934, Yamada’s hybridization of cultures was complete, and his Nagauta Symphony , subtitled “Tsurukame” after the folk composition that he quotes in the work, reflects a stronger sense of national pride and cultural synthesis. It’s not a symphony in any conventional sense; “Nagauta” means “long song,” a form of traditional ballad connected with Kabuki theater, which Yamada combines with a Noh-adapted setting of the Tsurukame text celebrating the eternal life of the Emperor and the majesty and magnificence of his court. The idiomatic, angularly melismatic vocals may shock some listeners not acquainted with traditional Japanese music, though the orchestral enhancement softens some of the rougher edges.

Conductor Yuasa is an experienced hand at such unusual scores, and leads his combined symphonic and ethnic musicians in convincing performances. Thanks to Naxos for continuing the Yamada saga and filling in a few more historical spaces in the Japanese musical landscape.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Nagauta Symphony "Tsurukame" by Kosaku Yamada
Performer:  Toru Ajimi (Shamisen), Shiro Minoda (Shamisen), Yutaka Miyata (Shamisen),
Gojiro Sakamoto (Shamisen), Sataro Mochizuki (Percussion), Satatochiro Mochizuki (Percussion),
Taro Yamaguchi (Voice), Toshimitsu Muraji (Voice), Keizo Miyata (Voice),
Jun Ajimi (Voice), Takehisa Takahashi (Shamisen), Roei Tosha (Percussion),
Toru Fukuhara (Percussion), Tatsuyuki Mochizuki (Percussion), Tetsuo Miyata (Voice)
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra,  Touon
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2005 
Venue:  Kodaira Citizens Cultural Hall, Tokyo, J 
Length: 17 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Sinfonia "Inno Meiji" by Kosaku Yamada
Performer:  Yumiko Mizoiri (Hichiriki)
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2005 
Venue:  Kodaira Citizens Cultural Hall, Tokyo, J 
Length: 18 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Choreographic Symphony "Maria Magdalena" by Kosaku Yamada
Conductor:  Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 10/17/2005 
Venue:  Kodaira Citizens Cultural Hall, Tokyo, J 
Length: 15 Minutes 39 Secs. 

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