Personalities | Toru Takemitsu | Contemporary | Classical
(To-roo Ta-ke-mit-soo) 1930–96
Born in Tokyo, Takemitsu encountered the music of Debussy and Messiaen shortly after World War II. His Requiem for Strings (1957), bearing the latter’s stylistic imprint, was praised by Stravinsky. In 1964 he met Cage, who not only stimulated his experiments with graphic scores but also encouraged him to reassess his stance towards traditional Japanese music: one result was November Steps (1967), a New York Philharmonic commission for biwa and shakuhachi with orchestra, in which the Japanese and Western instruments mirror each other’s playing techniques. With A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden (1977) Takemitsu signalled a move from hard-edged atonality to a language that, while remaining chromatic, foregrounded pentatonic and diatonic elements by means of delicate orchestral layering. His later works moved closer still to tonality with overt stylistic allusions and, occasionally, direct quotation (such as that of Debussy’s La mer in Quotation of Dream, 1991). He wrote almost 100 film scores, including that for Akiro Kurosawa’s Ran.
Viola Concerto, November Steps, Eclipse, Nobuko Imai, Katsuya Yokoyama, Kinshi Tsuruta, Saito Kinen Orchestra (cond) Seiji Ozawa (Philips/Decca)
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