Solo Concertos Vol. 1

NEOS 10716CD NEOS 10716CD

2009 release. ?Music has to be noble? -- Toshio Hosokawa once chose this creed in private conversation in order to distinguish himself from the aesthetics of other composers. To me, this phrase seems to be an apt description of Hosokawa?s music, since he draws its inherent nobility from a thoroughly noble source: ?gagaku,? the music of the Japanese imperial court. The elements that Hosokawa took over from gagaku for his own music include not only a characteristic style almost entirely ceremonial in bearing, but also individual rhythmic forms such as the accelerando derived from listening to the ?kakko? drum, and the generally heterophonic structure of the composer?s own tonal language the effect of which leads to extended harmonic areas being ?filled out? individually by various voices in the orchestra. Alternatively, each instrument spins its own thread, using a limited supply of tones available to all the players. If homophony is represented by a vertical scale, and polyphony by a horizontal one, then Hosokawa?s heterophonic approach can be represented by a scale that is diagonal. This is the manner that allows Hosokawa to produce in his sound-scapes -- which lack any real development -- a surprising diversity that can be traced back to extremely simple procedures. His ability to make a lot out of a little betrays, on the one hand, Hosokawa?s mastery of Western compositional techniques and, on the other hand, his roots in the Japanese culture of simplicity, of purity, even of poverty. One example: If the three upper and lower notes of a six-note chord change places just once by being shifted an octave in opposite directions, this very simple step produces a completely new state of tension, and an entirely new harmonic field inhabited by the instruments becomes audible. These new excursions into the realm of timbral values and unsuspected variety and musical richness make it clear that this music does not want anything, does not ?pursue? anything; it wants nothing other than itself. It is content in itself, in its beauty. And -- yes, it is noble. It is no coincidence that the ?Flute Concerto Per-Sonare? (1988) was Hosokawa?s first composition for a solo instrument and orchestra; of all the European instruments, the flute is, after all, the one most immediately comparable to its Japanese pedant. The sound of the ?shakuhachi? (bamboo flute) was the inspiration for the way this music was conceived, admitting as it does many fractured, often noise-like sounds, ones in which the sound of the instrument and the noise of breathing fuse, are interpenetrated as it were: ?per-sonare?. Hosokawa understands too how the orchestra and its sound may be cultivated like a landscape. The sound wanders through the room; two orchestral groups, labeled ?Echo I? and ?Echo II?, are located ?very far apart? to the left and right behind the audience and are also heard far left and right in the sound panorama of the present recording. The idea of sound as landscape provided the title for his violin concerto from 1993: ?Landscape III,? part of a cycle of compositions for various scorings. The score was dedicated to Irvine Arditti and if one listens to his recording in the immediate context of the other works on this CD, the simplicity of techniques discussed above is self-evident; it also becomes clear just how different are the solutions that the composer manages to arrive at, couched as they are in such simplicity. What becomes evident is that everything has been reduced to just two different ambient gestures: first, a horizontal/diagonal continuum (see above) occurring usually at a low dynamic level; and secondly, vigorous, loud, and sharply contoured vertical caesura that stand like steep blocks of rock in an otherwise gentle landscape. Hosokawa had previously studied the interaction of these sonic gestures in a separate series of chamber music pieces: his ?Vertical Time Studies.? The ?Piano Concerto Ans Meer (To the sea)? was written in 1999 on the occasion of the Duisburg Music Prize, Hosokawa dedicating the work to the pianist Bernhard Wambach. In a revision of an earlier work -- the ?Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra? -- the composer united the gestures discussed here with the pianistic techniques common to the instrument?s repertoire. The filigree and the sharply contoured chords are thus not only juxtaposed within a much larger structure but, importantly, are also fused into ever-changing sonic apparel given to the solo instrument. Irvine Arditti (violin), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Ber, Gunhild Ott (flute), SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Bernhard Wambach (piano), NDR Radiophilharmonie, Robert HP Platz (conductor).