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East Meets West / Leonard Garrison, Kay Zavislak

Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3099   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Toshio HosokawaWil OffermansToru TakemitsuDavid Loeb,   ... 
Performer:  Leonard GarrisonKay Zavislak
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

EAST MEETS WEST Leonard Garrison (fl, picc); Kay Zavislak (pn) CENTAUR CRC 3099 (59:40)

HOSOKAWA Lied. OFFERMANS Honami. FERROUD 3 Pièces. TAKEMITSU Air. LOEB Scenes from the Japanese Countryside. Read more class="COMPOSER12">YUN Garak

In cases where the music is an unknown quantity, my strict policy is to listen to the CD end to end without consulting the liner notes, and to do so for as many times as needed in order to decode the music’s language in terms intelligible to our readers. At first hearing, I was tempted to conclude that the underlying theme of this release might have been: three Asian composers make their pungently ethnic musical statements and two Western composers show themselves to be Asian wannabes, though undeniably eloquent ones. Subsequent hearings showed that that was far from the truth. The more I listened, the more I found the sound worlds of the former and the latter melding, making it increasingly difficult to differentiate one from the other.

A Chinese-born composer acquaintance of mine, Soong Fu Yuan, once told me that he and his Asian compositional compatriots consider Claude Debussy to be the first genuinely Chinese composer. At first I was taken aback. Yes, I agreed that whole-tone and pentatonic scales along with the exotic sounds of the gamelan often haunt Debussy’s piano music, but, I argued, they resulted from his exposure at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris to the Javanese gamelan. Soong countered with the notion that those sounds and scale relationships resided in Debussy’s spiritual core long before that 1889 epiphany. That encounter was merely the catalyst to bring to his consciousness that which was already there, much as Michelangelo considered his mission as a sculptor was to release the statue inherent in the block of marble before him.

And then I finally read the liner notes, which accounted for this stylistic and philosophic melding on a far more empirically verifiable level. Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa (born in Hiroshima in 1955) studied composition in Germany with Isang Yun and Klaus Huber. Toru Takemitsu (1930–96) took his inspiration from traditional Japanese music, jazz, Debussy, and Messiaen. Korean composer Isang Yun studied in Japan, Korea, Paris, and Berlin. In those last two cities he studied with, among others, Pierre Revel and Boris Blacher, and subsequently became associated with the Darmstadt school. Other Asian composers beyond the scope of this CD similarly share this East-West confluence. Chinese-American composer Chen Yi (b.1953) absorbed the influences of John Cage, Edgard Varèse, Mario Davidovsky, and the American Minimalists, and Chinese-American composer Tan Dun (b.1957) fell under the multifaceted spells of Philip Glass, John Cage, Meredith Monk, and Steve Reich upon moving to New York City in the 1980s.

On the other side of the coin, Dutch flutist and composer Wil Offermans (b.1960) is a tireless world traveler, performer, and researcher into the diverse ethnic manifestations of the flute. His Honami for solo flute of 1994 ( honami meaning, in Japanese, the waves created by the wind in a rice field), uses a variety of extended techniques including harmonics, glissandi, vocal techniques, and special fingering, to make his Western instrument morph into the traditional Japanese bamboo shakuhachi flute. The result, in this performance, is spellbinding. French composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud (1900–37) reflects the typically French interest in all things Asian. Trois Pièces for solo flute (1921–22) breathes the same air as Ravel’s Shéhérazade , especially of its last two songs. Born in New York City in 1939, David Loeb divides his time between composing and teaching. In that first category he has written extensively both for Western early instruments and those from China and Japan. In that second, one can count Jennifer Higdon, Jeremy Beck, and Craig Walsh among his students. In Scenes from the Japanese Countryside for piccolo solo (2005), Loeb presents 11 highly aphoristic and delicately scented miniatures reflecting the Japanese poetic sensibility as applied to such seemingly mundane occurrences as the sky’s clearing after a storm, night rain, and evening snow. In the end, this music left me in a quite pleasant state of melancholy.

The very title of Toshio Hosokawa’s Lied for flute and piano displays his embracing of, and affinity for, Western music. It is at once meditative and spiky in an almost Second Viennese School fashion, yet the total affect is unmistakably Asian. Isung Yun’s Garak for flute and piano of 1963 ( garak is Korean for a melodic idea of expressively poetic character) proves to be the most disturbing piece on this release. The flute and piano are in a dialogue that sometimes swells to argument, and others, to irreconcilable commentaries on their own points of view. Though the flute has the last word, the piece ends harmonically unresolved. Given what I know of Isung Yun’s life, this is not surprising. He was involved in the Korean resistance against Japan during World War II, was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese in 1943, and after the war, ultimately took up residence in Berlin. Once there he became involved in efforts to reunite Korea that ultimately took him to North Korea in 1963. Four years later both he and his wife were abducted from their Berlin home by the South Korean secret police, taken to Seoul, condemned for espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment. A worldwide petition led by Igor Stravinsky and Herbert von Karajan was presented to the South Korean government, signed by approximately 200 artists, including Luigi Dallapiccola, Hans Werner Henze, Heinz Holliger, Mauricio Kagel, Joseph Keilberth, Otto Klemperer, György Ligeti, Arne Mellnas, Per Nørgård, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He and his wife were ultimately released.

Toro Takemitsu is the only household-name composer on this release. Air for solo flute, composed in 1996 for Aurèle Nicolet, is his last work, and it is typical Takemitsu. Imbued with a sublime stillness, it gently seduces us to live only, and profoundly, in the moment and, in the end, reminds us of the universal verity that time, unlike the linear manner in which we regard it, is timeless.

Flutist Leonard Garrison’s basic sound is extraordinary—uncommonly rich, pure, and true. Add to this his elegantly deft articulation, his stunning mastery of extended techniques, and his probing musical insights, and this obscure and seemingly unpromising collection of pieces becomes an enlightening musical odyssey. In the Toshio Hosokawa and Isang Yun tracks pianist Kay Zavislak is with him hand in glove. The sound quality of this release is excellent by current standards. I could hear the upper harmonics (in excellent balance) even on the solo piccolo tracks.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Lied by Toshio Hosokawa
Performer:  Leonard Garrison (Flute), Kay Zavislak (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2007 
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 6 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Honami, for flute by Wil Offermans
Performer:  Leonard Garrison (Flute)
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 9 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Air for Flute solo by Toru Takemitsu
Performer:  Leonard Garrison (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996; Japan 
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 6 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Scenes from the Japanese Countryside, for piccolo by David Loeb
Performer:  Leonard Garrison (Piccolo)
Written: 2005 
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 15 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Garak, for flute & piano by Isang Yun
Performer:  Kay Zavislak (Piano), Leonard Garrison (Flute)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 10 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Oriental Pieces (3) for solo flute by Pierre-Octave Ferroud
Performer:  Leonard Garrison (Flute)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1922 
Venue:  Lionel Hampton School of Music Recital H 
Length: 8 Minutes 13 Secs. 

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