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Maki Ishii Live / Ryan Scott, Esprit Orchestra

Ishii / Scott / Esprit Orch / Pauk
Release Date: 09/27/2011 
Label:  Innova   Catalog #: 809   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Maki Ishii
Performer:  Ryan Scott
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Esprit Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ISHII Saidoki (Demon). Concertante. South-Fire-Water Alex Pauk, cond; Esprit O; Ryan Scott (perc) INNOVA 809 (52:05) Live: Toronto 2000–09

I have a hunch that Philip Blackburn at Innova must have a special interest in percussion now, as this is the second release that I’ve encountered from the label recently that features music for that medium by a master composer (the earlier one was of Robert Moran’s indeterminate scores, happily released while the composer is still with us; Maki Ishii’s dates are Read more 1936–2003). The title of this disc is Maki Ishii Live ; the notes say these are live performances, but they seem to be from three different times, I assume on different concert programs over the last decade, hence the more general dating in the headnote.

Ishii is particularly renowned for his percussion writing, and it’s easy to see why from this release, which features two concertos, with a work for solo marimba with percussion ensemble (ironically titled Concertante ). His ear was exquisite for discovering and creating a sort of luxurious garden of sounds, both in terms of what was produced by the individual instruments, and the resultant combined textures. In some ways, the opening cadenza of Saidoki (Demon) (1989) is worth the price of the whole disc, through its combination of bamboo wood sounds with those of a special set of metal instruments called cidelo ihos. Watery, rubbery, pliably morphing: All these descriptors apply to the exotic landscape soloist Ryan Scott evokes.

Ishii also has a particularly Japanese attitude toward writing for the orchestra. In both of the concertos, the orchestra stays out for a substantial period before slowly insinuating itself into the proceedings. Ishii is also very intent on allowing sound-events to resonate, so that means there are many separations and silences. If the sounds themselves weren’t so good, it would probably sound precious, but he gets away with it. The Concertante (1988) is the exception to this rule, in that it is far more continuous, if not particularly goal-directed. It’s a dreamy, hazy landscape through which the marimba wanders for 20 minutes. I enjoy it, but it comes closest to seeming overlong.

If I have any criticism of this music, it is that the idea of development seems rather naive. Ishii tends to create a kind of “flying wedge” in both concerti, where there is an accumulation of instrumental density, repetition, acceleration, and volume. This is especially the case with the brass writing of South-Fire-Water (1992), which can sound crass.

But I can certainly forgive that lapse (which says at least as much about my taste), since the sonic palette of this music is so rich and mysterious. Ryan Scott’s playing is deeply sensitive, as well as virtuosic. The music has real power, a sense of the sublime. My applause to Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra for having such a sense of adventure in its programming and performance.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Saidoki (Demon) by Maki Ishii
Performer:  Ryan Scott (Percussion)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Esprit Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989-1992 
Concertante by Maki Ishii
Performer:  Ryan Scott (Percussion)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Esprit Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988 
South - Fire - Summer by Maki Ishii
Performer:  Ryan Scott (Percussion)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Esprit Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992 

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