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|3. Allegro Vivace|
|4. Fantasy On Osaka Folk Tunes|
|5. Legend For Orchestra - After The Tale Of Ama-no-Iwayado|
|6. Rhapsody On Osaka Nursery Rhymes|
Originally a horn player in the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Hiroshi Ohguri was the leading composer of Osaka, a city with its own special culture and spoken language very different in character from that of Tokyo. Much of Ohguri' music reflects the sou
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The Fantasy draws on traditional religious music (both Shinto and Buddhist) and is, to a certain extent, a crowd-pleaser, although a rather forgettable one. Legend is a programmatic work, again rather well-constructed and somewhat more modern-sounding, but in the end hardly a work I am going to return to very often. The same goes for the Rhapsody on Osaka Nursery Rhymes, which - despite skillful and inventive meshing of various themes, and engagingly colorful orchestration - is not a work that stays in the memory.
The performances are excellent, however, bringing power and vitality to the works; colorful, rhythmically incisive and with fierce urgency when needed. Sound quality is good as well. In short, while I didn't find this one to be among the most exciting releases in the series, those who are interested can proceed with confidence.
It is in the other pieces recorded here, all of them later than the 1963 Concerto, that Ohguri's personality emerges. Perhaps it's because of my own unavoidable Western cultural bias, but I'm much charmed by the Japanese touches in 'The Fantasy on Osaka Folk Tunes,' 'Legend for Orchestra,' and 'Rhapsody on Osaka Nursery Rhymes.' Of course I am not familiar with the source material for these pieces, but there is plenty here that is identifiably Japanese - the large-interval appoggiaturas and slow tremolos, the bending of notes as is done on native string and wind instruments, modified pentatonic scales [and they are not all the simple CDFGA that we can all identify], elements of exuberant taiko drumming - mixed with more usual Western effects. There is rhythmic vitality abounding, and indeed in several spots in 'Legend' one would swear Ohguri was paying homage to the rhythms in, say, 'West Side Story.' It strikes me that the 13-minute 'Rhapsody' particularly is a successful mélange of Western - even American - and Japanese materials. Just listen to the opening fanfare - it could have come straight out of, say, a Max Steiner movie score - followed immediately by a charming tune, presumably one of the Osaka nursery rhymes. One has no sense of the one grafted onto the other; rather, they are integrated into a pleasing whole.
I would urge this disc on anyone who is even the least bit interested in hearing music from Asia. I have a strong suspicion - without knowing for sure - that there is an as-yet-undiscovered treasure trove of similar music and one hopes that Naxos will continue bringing examples to us here in the West.
Review by Scott Morrison