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Yashiro: Piano Concerto, Symphony CD

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Composer honored in Japan but virtually unknown in the West 11 Feb. 2003
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Akio Yashiro (1929-1976) was much lauded in his native Japan before his untimely death at the age of 47. The two pieces recorded here are quite striking. It would be impossible to think either of these pieces was written by a Western composer, even though European procedures are used.
Some impressions: The first movement of the Piano Concerto (1967) reminds me of Messaien, but with an East Asian sensibility. There is a good deal of limpid arpeggio work and what sounds like some birdsong. It rarely rises above a mezzo-piano until late in the movement. And there are two extended cadenzas for the piano soloist. In extended sonata form, it returns to its opening materials for a smashing conclusion that is somewhat expressionistic, à la early Prokofiev. The nocturnal second movement is dominated by an insistent repeated note, rather like the knell in the'Gibet' section of Ravel's 'Gaspard de la Nuit.' The last movement, a loose-limbed rondo, is by turns forceful and bumptious with lots of interjections from the brass. There are some reminiscences of the earlier birdsong. Periodically there are jazzy rhythms that sound a little like 1940s Bernstein, particularly the 'Age of Anxiety' symphony with its piano concertante movement. It comes to a brilliantly virtuosic ending. Hiromi Okada is an effective soloist here.
The Symphony (1958), in four movements, opens mysteriously in the strings with motifs in the brass and then clarinet following. This moves into a Moderato section that develops the earlier material and becomes more vigorous as it proceeds, although we are brought back to the misterioso mood periodically. This leads to a Scherzo which has an insistent ostinato rhythm of 6/8 + 2/8 + 6/8 which derives from a form of Shinto ritual music, all at a whirlwind speed. The third movement is a fairly standard sonata form, with two themes,the first an extended melancholy chant by the English horn. Vibraphone and celesta, along with bass flute, figure prominently in the orchestration and give it a shimmering quality. The finale, again in sonata-allegro form, has a slow introduction followed by an allegro that uses some traditional Shinto motifs, as in the second movement, which are subjected to exciting contrapuntal development. The whole thing comes to a brilliant conclusion.
The Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Takuo Yuasa, play this, to them, unfamiliar music with élan. The sound is fine.
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