Notes and Editorial Reviews
This disc is a treat. "Kamikazi", in case you are interested, means "wind of God" and refers to a civilian aircraft launched in 1938, and not to the later WWII suicide dive-bombers. Hisato Ohzawa (1907-53) had a remarkable pedigree. He was a graduate of the New England Conservatory; among his teachers were Sessions, Converse, and Schoenberg; he later studied in Paris with Roussel and Boulanger, and the confluence of modernist, French, and American (i.e. jazz) elements is plainly audible in both of the works on offer here. His return to Japan was not propitious: stylistically he was in advance of the musical culture of the day, and his sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage after the war ensured his descent into musical
Nevertheless, he was a fine composer in a style that sounds remarkably like Antheil or Finland's Einar Englund. The "Kamikaze" Concerto is much more than that, particularly when the central Andante introduces the Ravel G major Concerto to Gershwin's Concerto in F, courtesy of a solo saxophone that neither of those composers remembered to include. It's a breezy, beautifully written work full of memorable ideas (though the ending is shockingly abrupt), and Ekaterina Saranceva plays it extremely well. Exactly what the Third Symphony has to do with the founding of Japan is difficult to fathom, despite the presence of some more overtly oriental musical motifs (which never strike the ear as stylistically incongruous) as compared to the concerto. This is simply a big, colorful, confident showpiece of the sort that Koussevitsky (a supporter for whom Ohzawa wrote a double bass concerto) surely would have enjoyed commissioning and performing.
The Russian Philharmonic under Dmitry Yablonsky plays both works very well considering how unfamiliar they must have been. Yes, the brass sound a touch rough, and there are some moments of rhythmic unsteadiness in the strings, but the energy of the conducting and the quality of the music come through loud and (sonically) clear. Without doubt, this is one of the more interesting and rewarding issues in Naxos' ongoing exploration of 20th century Japanese classical music. Ohzawa is a real find.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 3 "Kamikaze" by Hisato Ohzawa
Ekaterina Saranceva (Piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1938; Japan
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