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    Japanese Melodies


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<img src="images/indiff/commun/lettrines/j.gif" align=left>apanese Melodies

Japanese Melodies

 

In the autumn of 1994 I was in Japan with Marc Grauwels fora range of concerts of French music from the beginning of the twentiethcentury. He asked me to explain to him the meaning of a Japanese song called Jogashimano ame, which we had decided to playas an encore. To my great regret I realisedthat I was incapable of doing what he asked. How does one translate anotherculture in a few words, another language, another history, isolated from therest of the world for centuries? The task seemed to me both too long and toocomplicated. My surprise, then, can be imagined when I heard Marc Grauwelsperfectly imitating the sound of the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanesebamboo flute, on his modern Western instrument. This inspired musician hadunderstood very well the traditional Japanese meaning and soul, beyond wordsand language. "There is something in this music that attracts me profoundly",he told me.

 

I believe that there is something that Japan andother countries need to learn. Today Japan is open to the rest of the world. Goodscirculate between all countries, but perhaps now, in the twenty-first century,we need more contact from soul to soul.

 

The present recording consists of music written after therevolution of 1868, that is to say, at a time when Japan started to open up tothe West. This meeting between the sounds of traditional Japan and of the Westis what Marc Grauwels, Ingrid Procureur, Vladimir Mendelssohn and I have wantedto transmit through this record.

 

Hiroko Masaki

 

[1] Jogashima no ame was composed by Tadashi Yanadaand intended to be sung unaccompanied in a play by Hogetsu Shimura. Through theinterpretation of a famous singer of the time, the song won wide successthroughout Japan.

 

[2] Itsuki is a remote place in Kumamoto. The lullabyItsuki no komoriuta tells of the revolt of a young country girl, forcedby the ruling class to endure harsh working conditions.

 

[3] The story of Nambu ushioiuta is set in avery rich region of Northern Japan in the paddy-fields of Iwate. A man isleading his heavily-laden oxen over the Yamazaka Pass.

 

[4] Narayama is one of the masterpieces ofJapanese melody. Nara, the former capital, was both the end of the line for thesilk road and the market town where products from the West were bargained for.

 

[5] The composer Rentaro Taki, who died at the age of24 from lung disease after brief study in Leipzig, was the first person to useWestern musical idiom in 1900 with the melody Koojo no tsuki (Moon at a Desolate Castle). He was inspired by a poem of Bansui Doi which evokes the moonreflected in the ruins of the Castle of Aizu-Wakamatsu and which reminds him ofthe Castle of Takedu in his native town of Ohida-ken.

 

[6] The poet Hakushu Kitahara, known as the magicianof words, left tankas (short poems) and many songs and fairy-tales. The songs,over a hundred in number, that came from the collaboration with Kosaku Yamada,including Kono michi (This Road), are greatly appreciated by the public

 

[7] The composer Michio Miyagi lost his sight at the ageof seven but by the age of eleven was already teaching the koto. As a ferventadmirer of Ravel and Stravinsky he contributed to the emergence of music withEuropean influence in Japan. Haru no umi (The Sea in Spring) depict,spring on the inland sea of Setonaiki.

 

[8] The composer Yasuji Kiyose was a great admirer ofTakuboku Ishakawa, for whom he set some fifty poems to music, including Nantonaku.Takuboku was opposed to the accelerated Europeanisation of Japan at thebeginning of the twentieth century. The son of an impoverished Buddhist priestin Iwate, he died in poverty at the age of 27.

 

[9] The sad melody of Defune evokes a port in Northern Japan, Akitaken, covered in snow. The main theme of farewell, full of feeling,is very popular in Japan.

 

[10] The poet Mafu Takemoto translated Dante"s DivineComedy into Japanese. From this Yasuji Kiyose took the poem Pan for his Hue,with its Japanese melody.

 

[11] Kosaku Yamada was born in Tokyo and studiedcomposition in Berlin. In 1918 he made a concert tour of the United States andin 1936 was made a chevalier of the French Legion d"honneur, the first Japanesemusician to win an international reputation. His Chuugoku-chiho no komoriuta(Lullaby from the Chugoku District) takes its name from Chugoku, the westernpan of the main island of Japan.

 

[12] The poem Hutsu koi by Takuboku Ishakawarecalls his first beloved. The setting by Koshigaya was made in 1925.

 

[13] Sunayamano (Hill of Sands), from ananthology by Takuboku Ishikawa, was set to music in 1943 by Yasuji Kiyose, fromhi, hospital bed.

 

[14] Tokaino was the first of TakubokuIshikawas poems to be set by Kiyose, in 1927. Here the composer was able todistil the essence of the original poem.

 

[15] Sarasarato is also taken from Ishikawa"santhology, under the title Kita-no-abi (Journey in the North).

 

[16] In Karatachi no hana (TrifoliateOrange-Flowers), with a German dedication to his dear friend Ayako Oghino anddated 1925, Kosaku Yamada evokes his childhood, depicting the flowers of thehedge next to the factory where he worked when he was young.

 

[17] Chin chin chidori is by Hidemaro Konoye,who conducted the ABC Orchestra on its first tour of Japan. With an essentiallyfolk rhythm, the piece suggests the song of a bird near the water.

 

[18] The pastoral song Oborozukiyo depicts thebanks of the river Chikuma, the home district of the composer, Tatsynki Takano,where, in the old days, all that could be seen were the yellow flowersof the colza plant, the oil from which was used for light.

 

[19] Kaya no kiyama no (On the Hill of the KayaTrees) was written in July 1922 for the cover of the magazine Shi to ongaku (Verseand Music), started by Yamada and Kitahara.

 

[20] The lullaby Yurikugo wa, written by KozaboroHirai, who favoured the less complex forms of modern music.

 

[21] Awatetokoya was written in 1918 on thefirst anniversary of the movement for the promotion of the children"s song Akai-tori(Red Birds).

 

Marc Grauwels

 

Internationally acclaimed as a flautist, Marc Grauwels hasappeared as a soloist with major orchestras throughout the world and in 1986was chosen as principal flautist in the World Orchestra under Carlo Maria Giulini.His career in chamber music includes collaboration with ensembles of greatdistinction. His many recordings have brought releases for major companies, includingthe complete flute music of Mozart for Hyperion. Marc Grauwels is professor offlute at the Brussels Royal Conservatoire and was in earlier years principalflute in the Brussels National Opera Orchestra, followed by ten years in a similarposition with the Belgian Radio and Television Orchestra Since 1987 he hasdevoted himself to a career as a soloist.

 

Ingrid Procureur

 

The Belgian harpist Ingrid Procureur began her studies atthe Mons Conservatoire, where she was awarded the harp Premier Prix, as, subsequently,in 1983, at the Conservatoire National Superieur in Paris. She has appeared asa soloist and in chamber ensembles throughout Europe and has undertaken regularengagements with the Belgian Radio Symphony, Belgian National and BelgianNational Opera Orchestras as well as in leading international festivals.

 

Hiroko Masaki

 

The Japanese soprano Hiroko Masaki won first place in thesolo singer division of the NHK-Mainichi All-Japan Students" Music Competitionat the age of eighteen. She took her Master"s Degree at Tokyo NationalUniversity of Fine Arts and Music in 1987 and made her debut as Despina in Tokyo.She studied with Mady Mesple and Gabriel Bacquier in Paris, thereafter movingto Brussels with a Rotary International Foundation scholarship. There she wasawarded the Diplome Superieur of Opera at the Royal Conservatoire. She has alsostudied with some of the most distinguished performers and teachers and since1993 has worked as an assistant in the singing department of the Brussels RoyalConservatoire.

 

Vladimir Mendelssohn

 

Vladimir Mendelssohn moved to Holland in 1979 and teaches atthe Royal Conservatory in The Hague, in Rotterdam and at the Folkwang Hochschulein Essen. He had his musical training in Bucharest, where he won major prizesin viola and in composition, and has since then himself served on internationalcompetition juries. In his work as a player and as a composer he has aninterest in new music, balanced by tradition in his performance of majorrepertoire from the classical and romantic periods. He has collaborated in manyrecordings including a prize-winning release of Brahms Lieder and has givenmaster classes throughout Europe. As a performer he has participated in majorinternational festivals, notably Gidon Kremer"s Lockenhaussen and Dimitry Sitkovetsky"sWasa Festival.

 
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