Review of Japanese Guitar Music Vol. 2 by Shin-ichi Fukuda, Naxos Records, 2016
Maestro Shin-ichi Fukuda is back with this second volume of Japanese Guitar Music, abck after the previous cd entirely dedicated to Toru Takemitsu’s guitar music. This second CD, in fact (I hope that others will follow), sheds light into contemporary Japanese music’s world, a world not entirely attributable to the important Takemitsu’s figure, but as a whole includes other composers who have dedicated themselves to classical Six strings with just as much energy and interest.
In this CD we find the music by Toru Takemitsu, justa one passage only “A Song of Early Spring” by his 12 Songs for Guitar, a song that was originally composed by Akira Nakada, composer and organist, was born on July 8, 1886 in Tokyo and died 27 November 1931.
The second passage is “Canto funèbre” by Hiroshi Hara. Hara graduated in 1957 in Tokyo, at the University of the Arts (formed in 1949 by the merger of Tokyo School of Fine Arts and the Tokyo Music School). He moved to France in 1961, where he continued his education by studying at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris, returning to Japan in 1964. In 1968 the Seikei University Guitar Society requested him to write a trio for them, beginning his involvement in the guitar world. The result was a four movements’ suite, the third, entitled Canto funèbre the following year (1969) was released as a solo, dedicated to guitarist Seiko Obara, with a structure divided into three parts, the first in B minor, the second in D major, the final part in A major. The song is a lament, where sadness follows the past’s sweet memories, followed by pain and awareness of reality.
The third composer, here present with his passages “Epitase” and “Cinq poemes pour la guitare”, is Akira Miyoshi. Born in Tokyo, he took lessons in piano and composition from an early age, studying the violin with Kozaburo Hirai. Miyoshi went to France in 1955 to study composition at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, studying with Henri Challan and Raymond Gallois Montblanc. He was heavily influenced in recent years by Henri Dutillieux’s works. Luciana Galliano wrote about him: “Akira Miyoshi belongs to a peculiarly Japanese compositional school of thought, in his meditation between a beautiful French academic writing and a sincere but always polite avangard’s language.”. In this CD he is present with two compositions: “Epitase” and “Cinq poemes pour la guitare”. The first one is part of a composition for guitar duo entitled Protase and dedicated to the guitarist Mikio Hoshido, who premiered it in 1975.
Cinq poemes pour la guitare is instead a very different composition, strongly influenced by the French school, and linked to Japanese haiku’s structure.
Shin-ichiro Ikebe wrote music for many Japanese directors and for many Akira Kurosawa’s movies, including Kagemusha (1980), MacArthur’s Children (1984), Dreams (1990), Rhapsody in August (1991), Madadayo (1993), and his music on this cd reflect his “cinematic” visions. “A Guitar Bears and She Keeps Hoping” is the musical result of his visits to the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Terezin, a song related to the pain experienced in these terrible places. “Theme of Katja” rather stems directly from his movies soundtracks, this one from Spy Sorge directed by Masahiro Shinoda, a solo guitar that links together the Internazionale’s theme and to Theme of Katja, one of the main parts of the soundtrack.
Mastro Tosho Hosokawa is proving, at the moment, as the best successor that Japan could imagine for Toru Takemitsu. Western trained (he studied with Isang Yun in Berlin and with Klaus Huber and Brian Fernyhought in Freiburg). Hosokawa has devoted to classical guitar really interesting pages like his Serenade (2003), commissioned by the Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen, made of two movements (In the Moonlight and Dream Path) that Shin-ichi Fukuda plays using his own tuning (EAD flat-G) and his Two Japanese Folk Songs (Komoriuta and Sakura), dedicated to guitarist Markus Hochuli, which performed them in 2004.
This second CD was really a nice surprise: I didn’t know the music of Maestri Hara, Miyoshi and Ikebe, confirming me the great ability of Maestro Hosokawa. Maestro Shin-ichi Fukuda confirms to be a remarkable interpreter and we can only hope that he will continue to collaborate with Naxos Records producing more cds showing us more Japanese contemporary guitars passages. We need it