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Japanese Orchestral Favourites


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Product Details

  • Composer: Various
  • Audio CD (May 21 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ncl
  • ASIN: B000063TS2
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #213,540 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Rhapsody for orchestra (1960) - Yuzo Toyama
2. Etenraku (1931) - arr. Hidemaro Konoye
3. Japanese Rhapsody (1935): Nocturne - Akira Ifukube
4. Japanese Rhapsody (1935): Fetes - Akira Ifukube
5. Music for Symphony Orchestra (1950): Andantino - Yasushi Akutagawa
6. Music for Symphony Orchestra (1950): Allegro - Yasushi Akutagawa
7. Kobiki-uta for Orchestra (1957) - Kiyoshige Koyama
8. Threnody to Toki for string orchestra and piano, op. 12 (1980) - Takashi Yoshimatsu

Product Description

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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Audio CD
Naxos brings us six widely varied pieces by Japanese composers on this disc of Japanese Orchestral Favourites. Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra is a short suite based on four Japanese folk songs, written as an encore for one of the NHK Symphony Orchestra's European Tours. As such, it is perfect--slick, commercial, and appealing. Other works on the CD are more challenging, and for me, more rewarding. Whether they truly represent Japanese orchestral favorites I can't be sure--it's difficult to imagine such a category without a work by Toru Takemitsu--but they are certainly worth hearing. Often drenched in pentatonicism, the pieces range from the ancient--an arrangement of Gagaku Music originating in the 5th century--to the modern.
The latter is well represented by Takashi Yoshimatsu's introspective Threnody to Toki for String Orchestra and Piano. The liner notes are misleading in that they describe the piano as playing "in the style of jazz"--there is no such sense in this piece. But the notes do tell us that the toki of the title is a Japanese crested ibis on the point of extinction, and that the composer sees this bird as a symbol of beauty under threat from the ever encroaching modern world. Yoshimatsu incorporates many of the extended string techniques of the avant-guard, and that he alludes to Penderecki's most notorious composition Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in his title can be no accident. But Yoshimatsu's use of these techniques is gentler, more evocative of a quiet sadness than a heartrending cry.
More traditional than Yoshimatsu's work is Yasushi Akutagawa's Music for Symphony Orchestra. It is a two movement piece very reminiscent of Prokofiev.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent CD, well worth its price. I was particularly drawn to Kiyoshige Koyama's Kobiki-Uta (The Woodcutter's Song) which brought back wonderful memories when the Singapore Youth Orchestra played it during its trip to the Kumamoto Festival in 1992. The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra did a stellar performance on this piece and the closing bass clarinet part contrasts well with the vibrancy and fiery of the earlier parts. Not to be missed also is Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra, a combination of famous Japanese folktunes and as the opening piece in this CD rightfully sets the mood for a festive delight in Oriental music. I had a pleasant surprise at Track 3 (Nocturne by Akira Ifukube). The sad folk-song like theme, with an extended viola solo was not only haunting but also absolutely captivating. Strongly recommended for music lovers in traditional Asian music and a taste of diverse musical expressions.
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By A Customer on Sept. 23 2003
Format: Audio CD
The enjoyment I had hearing the Akutagawa piece on this CD (especially the allegro) is worth the modest price of this disc alone. Yes, this piece is reminiscent of Prokofiev, but that doesn't begin to describe how wildly fun and yes--exhilirating--it is to listen to. I just love it and wish I could hear some more of this composer's music. The rest of the music on this disc is also very enjoyable. I frankly don't understand criticisms of this music as being too Western. It is not meant to be classic Japanese music like music from the Noh dramas or folk music, but it is clearly influenced by native Japanese musical traditions. And why shouldn't Japanese composers be influenced by the likes of Prokofiev? It's not like Russia is on the other side of the world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Widely Varied Music from Japan Nov. 11 2002
By Dr. Christopher Coleman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Naxos brings us six widely varied pieces by Japanese composers on this disc of Japanese Orchestral Favourites. Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra is a short suite based on four Japanese folk songs, written as an encore for one of the NHK Symphony Orchestra's European Tours. As such, it is perfect--slick, commercial, and appealing. Other works on the CD are more challenging, and for me, more rewarding. Whether they truly represent Japanese orchestral favorites I can't be sure--it's difficult to imagine such a category without a work by Toru Takemitsu--but they are certainly worth hearing. Often drenched in pentatonicism, the pieces range from the ancient--an arrangement of Gagaku Music originating in the 5th century--to the modern.
The latter is well represented by Takashi Yoshimatsu's introspective Threnody to Toki for String Orchestra and Piano. The liner notes are misleading in that they describe the piano as playing "in the style of jazz"--there is no such sense in this piece. But the notes do tell us that the toki of the title is a Japanese crested ibis on the point of extinction, and that the composer sees this bird as a symbol of beauty under threat from the ever encroaching modern world. Yoshimatsu incorporates many of the extended string techniques of the avant-guard, and that he alludes to Penderecki's most notorious composition Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in his title can be no accident. But Yoshimatsu's use of these techniques is gentler, more evocative of a quiet sadness than a heartrending cry.
More traditional than Yoshimatsu's work is Yasushi Akutagawa's Music for Symphony Orchestra. It is a two movement piece very reminiscent of Prokofiev. The variety on this disc is fantastic, from this work wholly and convincingly rooted in the traditions of Western Classical music, to Kiyoshige Koyama's piece equally rooted in the traditions of Japan. Koyama's Kobiki-Uta presents a series of variations on a wood-cutter's song. Balancing avant-guard compositional techniques with conventional ones, the work is quite intriguing.
Most fascinating of all to me is the arrangement of Gagaku, an ancient form of Japanese Court Music imported from China. Composer Hidemaro Konoye does an excellent job of imitating traditional Japanese instruments with a western orchestra in this arrangement of Etenraku. For some tastes, this work may move too slowly with too much repetition, but I'm transported by it.
All in all, this is a superb CD, well worth owning. The performances by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra directed by Ryusuke Numajiri are first rate, with impeccable intonation, excellent balance, and compelling interpretation of these works. Hats off to Naxos for this--I heartily recommend it for all.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Worth it for the Akutagawa alone Sept. 23 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The enjoyment I had hearing the Akutagawa piece on this CD (especially the allegro) is worth the modest price of this disc alone. Yes, this piece is reminiscent of Prokofiev, but that doesn't begin to describe how wildly fun and yes--exhilirating--it is to listen to. I just love it and wish I could hear some more of this composer's music. The rest of the music on this disc is also very enjoyable. I frankly don't understand criticisms of this music as being too Western. It is not meant to be classic Japanese music like music from the Noh dramas or folk music, but it is clearly influenced by native Japanese musical traditions. And why shouldn't Japanese composers be influenced by the likes of Prokofiev? It's not like Russia is on the other side of the world.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
too western? Sept. 17 2008
By Niccolo Athens - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The first reviewer is well off of the mark. The fact that he has cited the fradulent "gypsy" influences in Brahms and Liszt as an example of real stylistic integration is evidence that he has no idea what he is talking about.

Of course these pieces have a strong Western French/German influence. They come from an interesting period in music history: a kind of behind-its-time nationalism in Japan sparked by the desire to Westernize while still maintaining cultural identity. Musically, this was ushered along by strong ties with the Germans. Yamada, who in many ways was the forefather of the composers on this disc, studied with Bruch in Berlin.

No one made any pretenses that this was a CD of traditional Japanese classical music (outside of the faithful orchestral transcription of Etenraku). It is clearly not.

What it consists of is a wide variety of responses to this climate, some more effective than others. These pieces run the gamut between almost entirely Western (Akutagawa) and almost entirely Eastern (Etenraku). Even among the nationalist Japanese taking their cues from the West, there are different facets. Ifukube was enthralled by Stravinsky, while Hashimoto was in love with the French.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Japanese Orchestral Favourites Oct. 12 2003
By Philip Ong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent CD, well worth its price. I was particularly drawn to Kiyoshige Koyama's Kobiki-Uta (The Woodcutter's Song) which brought back wonderful memories when the Singapore Youth Orchestra played it during its trip to the Kumamoto Festival in 1992. The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra did a stellar performance on this piece and the closing bass clarinet part contrasts well with the vibrancy and fiery of the earlier parts. Not to be missed also is Yuzo Toyama's Rhapsody for Orchestra, a combination of famous Japanese folktunes and as the opening piece in this CD rightfully sets the mood for a festive delight in Oriental music. I had a pleasant surprise at Track 3 (Nocturne by Akira Ifukube). The sad folk-song like theme, with an extended viola solo was not only haunting but also absolutely captivating. Strongly recommended for music lovers in traditional Asian music and a taste of diverse musical expressions.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A varied an interesting selection, though the quality of the music varies as well April 1 2009
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is, in more than one way, a rather curious disc. To most people, this will be unfamiliar music, but overall this is hardly a "best of" Japanese music at all - some of the composers, e.g. Akutagawa and Ifukube, are better served by the music on the respective discs devoted exclusively to them and no one will be able to convince me that Yoshimatsu's "Threnody to Toki" is anywhere close to a masterpiece or even particularly worthwhile.

For the most part, the music here is accessible and indeed close to light music. Curiously, the most "difficult" piece, at least to Western ears, is also the oldest, Hidemaro Konoye's "Etenraku" - an arrangement of old Japanese tunes from 1931. It is, however, an attractive and skillfully orchestrated work. Ifukube's price-winning Japanese Rhapsody from 1935 was critically acclaimed in its day, and quite important to the recognition of Japanese music internationally. And it is indeed a delicately scored, rather beautiful, impressionistic score. Akutagawa's Music for Symphony Orchestra is a spectacularly enjoyable work, strongly influenced by the Russian contemporaries - Prokofiev and Kabalevsky in particular - and is the most viscerally exciting work on the disc (and the later Naxos disc devoted to the composer really affirms those qualities). Koyama's "Kobiki-Uta", a set of variations on a traditional Japanes song, displays some colorful orchestration but fails to sustain interest, and much the same goes for Toyama's orchestral rhapsody - skillfully scored light music without anything particularly interesting to say. Yoshimatsu's populist neo-romanticism fails to engage, just as I have found to be the case with his other works, and the reason for the popularity of his music eludes me - `sentimental, vulgar soap-opera music with few redeeming features' seems to me to be the most appropriate description.

Performances are excellent, full of color and sense of exuberant rhythms and the sound quality is fine. An interesting and enjoyable disc, but - as opposed to the intention - I don't think I would recommend it as the best introduction to Naxos' series of Japanese classics. For that I would (apart, of course, from the far more famous Takemitsu) turn to one of the single-composer releases, preferably (possibly) Ifukube or Akutagawa.

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