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No rigour and not much vigour...
on 14 August 2010
I enjoy this album for what it is: film music (mostly) played on the piano with a comparative absence of trickery... comparative, that is, to the obligatory bombast of the original production scores; but also to Sakamoto's electronic oeuvre. And let's be clear that - despite his reputedly hypnotic playing style - there is no way that the ageing Japanese wunderkind could get through all the tracks here on a pub piano without either a computer chip or Doc Octopus as an assistant.
This is emotional music for people who like to think about emotion and feel music: rather than the other way around.
So - since no one else is - let's be brutal. Sakomoto is not Chopin. He offers nothing like the Polish master's complexity and has done nothing to match his historical achievement. He's not 'even' Debussy (who Sakomoto rightly admires). You might say he combines Erik Satie's molasses stride with Modest Mussorgsky's chordal enthusiasm. In fact Mussorgsky makes a neat comparison: someone soused in nationalist harmonics, whose compositions only achieve their potential when they're transposed.
Many a performer would envy Sakomoto's delightful effects and many a composer would want his ear for melodic 'hooks': but you can buy lemon meringues that have got more structure than these works have - and although structure for its own sake is a conservative vice, it is also a pretty infallible measure of thought and imagination. The suspicion has to be that this cd release was a bit of a money-earner ('Merry Xmas Mr Lawrence' AGAIN?!) by a man anxious to buff up his posterity before the arrival of arthritis.
Which doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. Just keep a sense of proportion. After all, most of that squelchy stuff is in our hearts, not in the plastic - and it does us no dishonour.