Toru Takemitsu (1930 - )

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01Takemitsu Rejects His Own Heritage20180205

Donald Macleod explores the early music of Toru Takemitsu.

Donald Macleod journeys through the early music and emerging career of Toru Takemitsu

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Known in his early career for his experimental approach to music, Takemitsu first came to international attention when Stravinsky heard a recording of his Requiem during a visit to Japan. From that point onwards, Takemitsu gradually became a composer of world renown, and his music not only ranged from works for the concert hall to composing nearly one hundred scores for film, but it also bridged the divide between East and West. The music of Takemitsu often became a synthesis between traditional Japanese instruments, something he initially rejected, and Western musical procedures. He created a unique and personal musical language, and his works were often inspired by nature or art, with unique titles including A String Around Autumn, or A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.

Takemitsu, for a part of his early life, lived with his aunt who was a teacher of the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument. This was an unhappy period in Takemitsu's life, and, partly due to this and also due to the emerging musical scene after the Second World War, Takemitsu initially rejected his Japanese musical heritage. It was during the time when he was conscripted into the army and living in an underground dugout that an officer cadet played a wind-up gramophone and Takemitsu became hooked on Western music. His work Family Tree, composed much later in the 1990s, shows his interest in Jazz, whereas in his early works Romance and Distance de fée, we can hear influences of Debussy and Messiaen.

Sayonara
Shin-Yu Kai Choir
Shin Sekiya, conductor

Family Tree
Seira Ozawa, speaker
Saito Kinen Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

Romance
Megumi Fujita, piano

Distance de fée
Arisa Fujita, violin
Megumi Fujita, piano

Music of Training and Rest (José Torres)
London Sinfonietta
John Adams, conductor

Requiem
Saito Kinen Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02Takemitsu Meets Stravinsky And Cage20180206

Donald Macleod journeys with Takemitsu as he meets Stravinsky and Cage.

Donald Macleod journeys with Takemitsu as he meets Igor Stravinsky and John Cage during the 1950s and 1960s

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Known in his early career for his experimental approach to music, Takemitsu first came to international attention when Stravinsky heard a recording of his Requiem during a visit to Japan. From that point onwards, Takemitsu gradually became a composer of world renown, and his music not only ranged from works for the concert hall to composing nearly one hundred scores for film, but it also bridged the divide between East and West. The music of Takemitsu often became a synthesis between traditional Japanese instruments, something he initially rejected, and Western musical procedures. He created a unique and personal musical language, and his works were often inspired by nature or art, with unique titles including A String Around Autumn, or A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.

From early on in his career, Takemitsu had an interest in music for the screen. He wrote many scores for film including The Face of Another, Women of the Dunes and Harakiri. But Takemitsu consistently composed for the concert hall as well and he met Igor Stravinsky, who was greatly impressed by the younger composer's Requiem. As a result, Takemitsu was launched onto a world stage and a prestigious commission came his way from the conductor Serge Koussevitsky.

During the 1960s, Takemitsu also became very interested in the avant-garde techniques of American composer John Cage. This filtered through into Takemitsu's own compositions. In 1964 he met with Cage in America and a few years later came another important commission, this time from Leonard Bernstein for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The result was November Steps, which combines a western orchestra with Japanese instruments including the biwa and the shakuhachi.

Waltz (The Face of Another)
London Sinfonietta
John Adams, conductor

Uninterrupted Rest
Peter Serkin, piano

Ring
Ryu Noguchi, flute
Harumi Ibe, terz guitar
Mitsuhiko Hamada, lute

Women of the Dunes
Studio orchestra

Harakiri
Kinishi Tsuruta, biwa

November Steps
Katsuya Yokoyama, shakuhachi
Kinshi Tsuruta, biwa
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam
Bernard Haitink, conductor.

03Takemitsu And The Pentagonal Garden20180207

Donald Macleod explores Takemitsu's interest in nature and the guitar.

Donald Macleod explores Toru Takemitsu's interest in the guitar and inspiration from nature

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Known in his early career for his experimental approach to music, Takemitsu first came to international attention when Stravinsky heard a recording of his Requiem during a visit to Japan. From that point onwards, Takemitsu gradually became a composer of world renown, and his music not only ranged from works for the concert hall to composing nearly one hundred scores for film, but it also bridged the divide between East and West. The music of Takemitsu often became a synthesis between traditional Japanese instruments, something he initially rejected, and Western musical procedures. He created a unique and personal musical language, and his works were often inspired by nature or art, with unique titles including A String Around Autumn, or A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.

Toru Takemitsu was particularly interested in the guitar. During the 1970s he composed a set of twelve songs for the instrument, arrangements of other works such as The Internationale, or even songs by the Beatles. He also became aware of the Japanese virtuoso guitarist Kiyoshi Shomura. They would go on to collaborate together, and Takemitsu composed a number of works specifically for Shomura. One work Takemitsu composed for guitar, oboe d'amore and orchestra, was 'Vers, l'arc-en-ciel, Palma' which was a homage to the Spanish painter Joan Miro.

Along with art, nature also figures significantly as a means of inspiration for the music by Takemitsu. He loved gardens as he felt that they didn't reject people, but instead you could walk freely and observe the constant changes. Then in 1977 Takemitsu composed his most famous work, A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden. A dream prompted the composition of this work when he saw a flock of birds flying down into a pentagon-shaped garden. It would become one of Takemitsu's most popular and most often recorded works.

Joseph Kosma Arr. Takemitsu
Amours perdues
Franz Halász, guitar

Takemitsu
Dodes'Kaden
Studio Orchestra

Quatrain
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Tadaaki Otaka, conductor

Vers, l'arc-en-ciel, Palma.
Gareth Hulse, oboe d'amore
John Williams, guitar
London Sinfonietta
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04Takemitsu In Autumn20180208

Donald Macleod surveys the period Takemitsu composed his viola concerto.

Donald Macleod explores the period Takemitsu composed his viola concerto A String Around Autumn

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Known in his early career for his experimental approach to music, Takemitsu first came to international attention when Stravinsky heard a recording of his Requiem during a visit to Japan. From that point onwards, Takemitsu gradually became a composer of world renown, and his music not only ranged from works for the concert hall to composing nearly one hundred scores for film, but it also bridged the divide between East and West. The music of Takemitsu often became a synthesis between traditional Japanese instruments, something he initially rejected, and Western musical procedures. He created a unique and personal musical language, and his works were often inspired by nature or art, with unique titles including A String Around Autumn, or A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.

Nature was incredibly important to Takemitsu. He composed many works on similar themes including rain, sea, trees and dreaming. The solo piano work Rain Tree Sketch was inspired by the short story The Clever Rain Tree by Kensaburo Oe, whereas Toward the Sea, for alto flute and guitar, was composed to a commission from Greenpeace for its Save the Whales campaign. Both these works were written during the 1980s, and during this same period Takemitsu composed his concerto for viola and orchestra, A String Around Autumn. The composer Olivier Messiaen was in the audience for the premiere of this concerto, and he thought the orchestration was wonderful. Takemitsu himself described this work as an imaginary landscape.

Rain Tree Sketch
Kumi Ogano, piano

Toward the Sea
Sebastian Bell, alto flute
John Williams, guitar

Rikyu
Studio orchestra

A String Around Autumn
Nobuko Imai, viola
Saito Kinen Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

Trad. Arr. Takemitsu
Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
Shin-Yu Kai Choir
Shin Sekiya, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05 LASTTakemistu Is Diagnosed With Cancer20180209

Donald Macleod explores Toru Takemistu's final years.

Donald Macleod explores Takemistu's final years when, undergoing treatment for cancer, he plans to write an opera.

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Known in his early career for his experimental approach to music, Takemitsu first came to international attention when Stravinsky heard a recording of his Requiem during a visit to Japan. From that point onwards, Takemitsu gradually became a composer of world renown, and his music not only ranged from works for the concert hall to composing nearly one hundred scores for film, but it also bridged the divide between East and West. The music of Takemitsu often became a synthesis between traditional Japanese instruments, something he initially rejected, and Western musical procedures. He created a unique and personal musical language, and his works were often inspired by nature or art, with unique titles including A String Around Autumn, or A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.

During Toru Takemitsu's distinguished career as a composer on an international stage, he collaborated with a number of leading musicians including the pianist Peter Serkin, flautist Aurèle Nicolet, and also the clarinettist Richard Stoltzman. Takemitsu first met Stoltzman when the clarinettist was performing Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. They collaborated on a number of works together, including the one-movement concerto called Fantasma/Cantos. It was composed in 1994 and the structure is influenced by Japanese gardens in the go-round style.

The following year Takemitsu found himself in hospital, undergoing treatment for cancer. He realised that he didn't have a great amount of time left to him, but he confided to his daughter that he would at least like to write an opera before his death. In the end, this didn't come to fruition. Takemitsu's final works before he died, were his solo flute composition entitled Air, and also In the Woods for solo guitar.

Funeral Music (Black Rain)
London Sinfonietta
John Adams, conductor

Fantasma/Cantos
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
Tadaaki Otaka, conductor

Air
Aurèle Nicolet, flute

In the Woods
Franz Halász, guitar

I Hear the Water Dreaming
Sharon Bezaly, flute
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Tadaaki Otaka, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.