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Cosmos Haptic: Contemporary Piano Works from Japan (CD)

For Takemitsu, walking through a garden was a quasi-musical experience, and that’s the feeling one gets from Les yeux clos II, the late work by him in this collection.  Debussy’s sound-world is his source, but he pursues the argument into mystical realms; Hiroaki Takenouchi delivers it with gracefully expressive economy, as he does the eight other piece he has chosen to reflect the pianistic tradition among Japanese composers schooled in the musical ways of the avant-garde West.

The other pieces which stand out here are Joji Yuasa’s exquisite Cosmos Haptic (‘relating to the sense of touch’), in which single notes and terse phrases are dropped like pebbles into a silent pool, and Sachiyo Tsurumi’s exuberant Toy 2 for piano and electronics, in which the piano’s timbre is decorated by gentle gurgles and burps.  But the remainder are much of a muchness, suggesting compulsory competition pieces (which one of them actually is).

A curious narcissism prevails, best exemplified in Keiko Harada’s claim to be ‘composing what occurs inside a performer in performance situations’.  Toshio Hosokawa talks portentously of his ‘calligraphy of sound’ reaching out over ‘the void’, but there’s too much of that void for my liking.

Michael Church

Performance  ★★★★

Recording  ★★★★

(August 2009)

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