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Monday, September 18, 2006

CD REVIEW: Hayasaka: Piano Concerto

Hayasaka: Piano Concerto
Music by Humiwo Hayaska
Naxos 8.557819 (EU)
4 Tracks 52:51 mins

Prior to this release all I had known about the late Japanese composer Humiwo Hayasaka was that he composed the music for the Japanese cinema classics The Seven Samurai and Rashomon, so I found the accompanying booklet notes most enlightening. In fact, during his tragically short life, he had composed the scores for more than 100 films and written a good deal for the concert hall as well, three examples of which are included on this disc.
Unlike his colleague and contemporary Akira Ifukube, Hayasaka was very influenced by European music, as well as taking on board influences from China and other Asian countries, all of which very much came out in his work. Not being very well versed in music for the concert hall, I cannot myself compare his work with that of other composers for that medium, but his writing for the Piano Concerto from 1948 is likened to that of Rachmaninov and Chopin. All I can say, is that it consists of two movements; the first, something of a dark requiem, with some very dramatic moments for solo piano, whilst the second is a lighter affair, again with dramatic moments, but overall very busy and can be likened more to Chinese than Japanese music.
The second piece on this CD is 1941's Ancient Dances on the Left and on the Right and is perhaps more consistently Oriental in nature, though more so the Dance on the Right, which starts out much lighter than the almost regal Dance on the Left, though it does become somewhat riotous and then grand at one point.
The most enjoyable piece on the disc is undoubtedly the closing Overture in D from 1939, which is basically a stirring march and variations.
Throughout, the music is very well performed by the Russian Philharmonic, under the baton of Dmitry Yablonsky, with Hiromi Okada featuring on piano.
I'm so pleased that Naxos continues to release music by Japanese composers, as I never fail to find something of interest therein.


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