- Spirit Garden, for orchetra
- Solitude sonore, for orchestra
- Jose Torrés, film score: Music of Training and Rest
- Black Rain, film score: Funeral Music
- Face of Another, film score: Waltz
- Dreamtime, for orchestra
- A Flock Descends Into the Pentagonal Garden, for orchestra
The music of composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) is perhaps the perfect antidote for today's overstimulated and overstressed society: endlessly circular wisps of melody, gentle string harmonics, and an intelligently slow and steady pace. Most of his fellow Japanese contemporaries, including Akira Ifukube and Yuzo Toyama, wrote in a style much more influenced by their country's folk music. Takemitsu, though, was perhaps the first Asian composer who was successfully able to completely bridge the gap between East and West. This Naxos release features the Bournemouth Symphony performing five of Takemitsu's best works with commitment, grace, and sensitivity under music director Marin Alsop's direction. All of the compositions featured are from varying time periods that effectively mark Takemitsu's styles. The six-minute, haunting "Solitude Sonore" (1958) was composed just a year after the composer met Stravinsky, who declared his "Requiem" a true work of "genius" and helped launch the young composer's career. Alsop gives great command to many of the minute details, especially the slowly twisting and bending notes in the strings. "Dreamtime" (1981) is similar in style to "Solitude," but somewhat more peaceful and less coherent, evocative of the uncontrolled, fragmentary nature of dreams. Colored in a way that is more folk-like than some of the other featured works, "Spirit Garden" (1994) is actually derived from a twelve-note row. The shakuhachi-like woodwind embellishments are supported by raspy string harmonics and combined with luxuriant sonorities, creating an atmosphere that depicts Takemitsu's obsession with gardens. This particular outdoor menagerie lacks much in the way of peace or tranquility, though: strong sense of inner turmoil permeates Takemitsu's work and is vividly realized by Alsop. Completed at roughly the same time as "Spirit Garden," the "Three Film Scores" is Takemitsu's re-orchestration of a trio of his more popular film score fragments. These have a definite Hollywood influence, and the outer two movements, "Jose Torres" and "Waltz," sound as if famed Argentinean tango-master Astor Piazzolla was looking over his shoulder. The title piece is one of Takemitsu's most popular works. Dating from 1977, "A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden" was brought about as a commission from Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony. A play on numerology, the work is based on five different scales that have five possible transpositions. Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony dive into Takemitsu's landscape with breathtaking beauty, compassion, and shimmering detail. A terrific compilation of some of Takemitsu's most compelling works: highly recommended.