Yamada: Symphony "Triumph & Peace," Madara No Hana, The Dark Gate / Yuasa, Ulster Orchestra
Certainly, there is a profound difference in tone and intent in the two symphonic poems composed in 1913. The brooding harmonies, more colorful orchestration, occasional bombastic eruptions, and less formal constraints of The Dark Gate point to the influence of Richard Strauss, and there’s even a hint of Scriabinesque mystery. Some credit, however, should go to Yamada’s ability as a psychological scene-painter, since the music was inspired by a poem describing the anxiety felt by a group of sightless persons unable to escape from behind a large gate. Likewise, the symbolism of death and paradise in Madara No Hana finds its voice in lush, Impressionistic orchestration (including a tenor saxophone!) and outbursts that suggest a familiarity with Mussorgsky as well as Scriabin.
Interestingly, Katayama mentions that Yamada came to the US in 1918–19 and conducted the New York Symphony Orchestra (now Philharmonic) twice in Carnegie-Hall concerts of his own music. What he does not relate is that Yamada’s desire to become established as a composer/conductor in the West was, ironically, apparently hindered by his fluency in Western compositional styles; American audiences wanted something exotic, and at this time Yamada’s music lacked Japanese character. By 1921, however, Yamada composed a symphony, Inno Meiji, that combined traditional Japanese instruments with a symphony orchestra, anticipating post-WW II trends, and whatever confluence of styles he might have subsequently devised remain so-far unheard by the bulk of non-Japanese listeners. Perhaps Naxos will document Inno Meiji, and some of Yamada’s later work. In the meantime, the historical and curiosity factors outweigh the sheer musical pleasures of this initial release.
Art Lange, FANFARE
Catalog Number: 8555350
Composer: Kosaku Yamada
Conductor: Takuo Yuasa
Orchestra/Ensemble: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra