NAXOS Again Gives Me a New Listening Experience

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NAXOS Again Gives Me a New Listening Experience

Post by Ralph » Sun Mar 27, 2005 8:08 pm

I suspect that except for, perhaps, Brendan and me, there are no serious students of aviation history on the board (I apologize if I'm wrong). In 1937 a Japanese single-engine aircraft, a prototype, set a record for flying from Tokyo to London. The airplane was named the "Kamikaze." A civil aircraft, it had no military backing as such or mission (of course all aviation in Japan by the late 30s had a military imprimitur). The plane landed at Croydon Aerodrome where it was greeted by a crowd of well-wishers who surrounded it. The plane's name was taken from Japanese history but with no thought of suicide aeronautics - quite the opposite.

Imagine my surprise a few days ago at Tower when I looked at this month's new NAXOS releases and saw on a booklet cover a photo of the plane being greeted by a clearly enthusiastic crowd at Croydon. And the lead piece on the disc is Hisato Ohzawa's Piano Concerto No. 3, "Kamikaze." Also on the disc: Symphony No. 3, "Symphony of the Founding of Japan." Of course I had to buy the release.

I had never heard of Hisato Ohzawa who died at an early age (1907-1953). After early studies in his native country, Ohzawa came to the U.S. and studied under important American composers including Schoenberg, Sessions and Converse. In the U.S. he composed concertos and symphonies and established a relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra becoming the first Japanese to lead that venerable organization.

Ohzawa returned to Japan before World War II but not before spending time studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger.

The "Kamikaze" concerto is in three movements and it reflects his American sojourn with hefty infusions of jazz rhythms. The pianist is front and center and supple keyboard technique is demanded. I suspect few pianists in the composer's native land could have comfortably performed this piece.

The symphony is in four movements and is a complex work suggesting but not strongly quoting from traditional Japanese melodies. It's truly a fusion piece, well worth hearing.

The excellent pianist is Ekaterina Saranceva, performing with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra under Dmitri Yablonsky.

I highly recommend this NAXOS release (8.557416) which again shows the label's commitment to introducing fine, unfamiliar music - indeed composers - to the public at ridiculously low prices ($5.95 in this instance).

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Mar 27, 2005 8:10 pm

My Vivaldi that you recommended arrived Friday. I have been screwing my courage to the sticking place, to quote Febnyc, to listen to it.
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Post by Febnyc » Sun Mar 27, 2005 8:34 pm

Thanks, Ralph, for the mention of the Ohzawa disc and for posting your impressions of it. It has been on my list and I'm gald to hear it now is in the stores.

In the same vein, and from the same label - do you have the Hashimoto, Yashiro and Yamada discs? All really good stuff.

Oh, also, in the Chinese series - on Marco Polo the disc of orchestral music by Sicong Ma is great.

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Post by Colin » Sun Mar 27, 2005 9:08 pm

Fascinating Ralph!

Bingo! Yes, I love flying even more than music.

There's a similar 'flying-classical-musical-link' brought to mind by your post.

I remember, as a nipper, reading Francis Chichester's wonderful book about his trans-Tasman flight. 'Alone Over the Tasman'. It's one of those accounts that just have to be read in one long sitting: Superb.

At one point he crashed his Gypsy Moth on a Japanese island, snagged his floats in some wires strung across a bay, I think. Undaunted, he wired for linen and dope to be shipped to him from Hatfield, and singlehandedly completely rebuilt the De Havilland in a few weeks, whilst his body recovered,

But the musical connection...

On the engine cowl of his mount he had the name Elijah emblazoned, and it long puzzled me why this remarkable, but ungodly, adventurer had named his companion after a major prophet of God.

Then I heard the music of a certain German Jewish composer...
Last edited by Colin on Sun Mar 27, 2005 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MaestroDJS » Sun Mar 27, 2005 9:13 pm

Speaking of Japanese composers:

Ikuma Dan (1924-2001) is excellent. We sometimes hear "Oriental" style music by Western composers, but rarely vice versa. Ikuma Dan composed music which has a strong underlying Japanese personality, but in forms which are very much in the Western tradition. Obviously he was Occident-prone.

Ikuma Dan: The Six Symphonies: No. 1 in A Major in 1 movement, No. 2 in B-Flat Major, No. 3 in 2 movements*, No. 4*, No. 5*, No. 6 "Hiroshima"*. Vienna Symphony Orchestra / Kazuo Yamada / *Ikuma Dan. London FOOL-20466/9 (4 CDs) (Japan).

Speaking of flight:

Marc Blitzstein composed an interesting "symphony" for narrator, tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra entitled The Airborne Symphony. The first movement (Theory of Flight, Ballad of History and Mythology, Kittyhawk, The Airborne) is pretty stirring. Unfortunately the 2nd movement (The Enemy, Threat and Approach, Ballad of the Cities, Morning Poem) and 3rd movement (Air Force: Ballad of Hurry-Up, Night Music: Ballad of the Bombardier, Recitative: Chorus of the Rendezvous, The Open Sky) become progressively more corny. On the other hand, during some of my engineering projects, I find myself singing the Ballad of Hurry-Up ("Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up ... and wait"). Corny or not, this performance with Orson Welles and Leonard Bernstein makes a persuasive case for it. To be honest, semi-goofy music like this needs their help. A pleasant diversion.

Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964), United States:

The Airborne Symphony. Orson Welles, Narrator; Andrea Velis, Tenor; David Watson, Baritone; Choral Art Society. New York Philharmonic / Leonard Bernstein. Coupled with Walter Piston: The Incredible Flutist; Edward Burlingame Hill: Prelude for Orchestra. Sony Classical SMK 61849.

(D'oh! Neither of these are by Naxos.)


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Post by Ralph » Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:48 pm

The Airborne Symphony is locked in its time, an historical curiosity rather than a wartime piece with enduring value. It's fun to listen to but hardly fine music.


I have most of the NAXOS and MARCO POLO releases of recent and contemporary Chinese and Japanese music.


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