Yashiro: Piano Concerto, Symphony / Yuasa, Okada, Et Al

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Japanese composer Akio Yashiro (1929-76) studied in Paris with both Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen and writes in a style reminiscent of a cross between Ravel and Dutilleux. Original he ain't, but there's nothing wrong with that. Indeed, his considerable craftsmanship and polish reflect the best in the French tradition, and anyone who loves the modern French school will feel very comfortable with these atmospheric and appealing works.


The Piano Concerto begins like some dreamy offspring of Messiaen and adds a touch of Bartók to the mix as well. Its marvelous central slow movement obviously owes its inspiration to Ravel's "Le Gibet" from Gaspard de la nuit, with its creepy persistent repeated notes and aura of Gothic horror. Hiromi Okada plays a pretty mean piano, as poetic in the music's softly impressionistic moments as in its more virtuosic passages. While hardly conventionally melodic, this brilliantly written piece offers no difficulties to any listener with a reasonably open mind and an ear for adventure.


The Symphony makes just as favorable an impression. It opens with sounds that could have come from some lost late tone poem of Sibelius. The vivacious scherzo shares the same "perpetual ostinato" technique as the comparable movement from Debussy's string quartet. It all culminates in a lengthy and melancholy Lento, featuring some lovely wind solos and long, lyrical phrases that carry the melodies effortlessly over the bar lines. The finale owes a lot to Messiaen: it begins with a few characteristic bird-like "whoops" and then takes off like a rocket. The ending paraphrases the climactic chorale and frantic dash to the finish line of the Turangalila-symphonie, complete with extravagant cymbal and tam-tam crashes.


It would be easy to dismiss this music as excessively derivative, but it works so well and sounds so confidently written that in the end it winds up striking you more as a friend you believe you might have met in a previous life than some sort of cheap imitation of a beloved master. Takuo Yuasa leads the Ulster Orchestra in exciting, flamboyant, very well recorded performances of both works, reminding us that in the arts what matters is not so much who does something first, but who does it best. Yashiro was, without question, one of the best.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: 8555351


  • UPC: 747313535125


  • Label: Naxos


  • Composer: Akio Yashiro


  • Conductor: Takuo Yuasa


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Ulster Orchestra


  • Performer: Hiromi Okada