MAYUZUMI: Bugaku / Mandala Symphony / Rumba Rhapsody (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/ Takuo Yuasa/ Wayne Laird) (Naxos: 8.557693)
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Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929-1997)
Symphonic Mood Bugaku Mandala Symphony Rumba Rhapsody
Toshiro Mayuzumi is one of the most importantJapanese composers, enjoying an internationalreputation in the period after World War II. He wasborn in 1929 in Yokohama, a city that had developedafter Japanese isolationism came to an end and thereforerelatively free from Japanese traditions andconventions. Mayuzumi's father was a sea-captain, andMayuzumi, was brought up in this unique environment,which nurtured his yearning for the exotic, includingAsia, America and Europe. His father's occupation hadanother influence over the future composer in view ofhis absence from home during the first eight years of thecomposer's life, an absence for which he later foundcompensation in the strength later apparent in his music.
His family was not especially musical, but as wascommon with many rich families of the day, the familyhad a reed organ. Mayuzumi started to take pianolessons in his primary school days and composeddozens of songs and piano pieces, consulting books onmusic theory.
In 1941, Mayuzumi entered Yokohama Dai-ichiJunior High School. In war-time, Japanese schools andcompanies organized students and workers into choralgroups, wind bands, school bands and harmonica bands,to enhance solidarity and to entertain people. Mayuzumibelonged to the harmonica band and the choral societyat school, in addition to playing the double bass in anamateur orchestra. Progressing in his piano playing andaspiring to be a professional composer, he began tostudy music theory under a composer living inYokohama, Taro Nakamura, whose style was neoclassical,a pupil of Kan'ichi Shimofusa who hadstudied with Hindemith in Berlin.
In the spring of 1945 Mayuzumi entered thecomposition department of Tokyo Music School(Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music), known asthe best music institute in Japan. There his classmatesincluded Akio Yashiro, his life-long friend. They beganto study with Qunihico Hashimoto, chief professor ofthe department, but his studies at school were ofteninterrupted by war-time conditions and frequent airraids.
Hashimoto, therefore, decided to take him into hishome and continue to give him lessons. At the timeHashimoto was one of the central figures in Japanesemusic, providing patriotic music, while privatelyexperimenting with unpublishable dodecaphonic music.
Mayuzumi learned four things from Hashimoto, themusic of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, a certainversatility creating an extensive range of music fromprogressive pieces to pop music, how to dress andbehave fashionably, and a patriotic attitude.
Musical fashions changed in Japan during the war,when Chinese and Indonesian pop-tunes replaced thebanned American jazz. Latin-American music escapedprohibition, with the result that the tango and the rumbawere allowed, and the blues was barred. Mayuzumi'syearning for exoticism was fulfilled by Asian and Latin-American music. After the war there were considerablechanges in the Tokyo Music School. Hashimoto, a pupilof Egon Wellesz in Vienna and an associate ofSchoenberg and Krenek, was forced to resign.
Mayuzumi and his friend Yashiro now began to studywith two new teachers, Tomojiro Ikenouchi, a pupil ofHenri Busser and Paul Fauchet at the ParisConservatoire, and Akira Ifukube, who was discoveredby Alexander Tcherepnin. Ikenouchi, an admirer ofRavel and under the influence of French academism,was then one of the finest composers and educators inJapan. From him Mayuzumi learned techniques ofharmony and polyphony, based on the Conservatoiretradition. Mayuzumi's interest in Debussy and Ravel,acquired first under Hashimoto, was deepened underIkenouchi. Ifukube, on the other hand, worshippedStravinsky's Le sacre du printemps and was attached toostinato and earthly, violent music only possible with abig orchestra. He was also proficient in physics andacoustics and was an expert theorist in orchestration.
Mayuzumi's earlier interest in Stravinsky wasdeveloped under Ifukube.
The post-war collapse of the Japanese economyaffected the Mayuzumi family. Compelled to makemoney for his schooling, Mayuzumi played the piano ina jazz band, a form of music now in demand again,while continuing studies with Ikenouchi and Ifukube.
Graduating in the spring of 1951, Mayuzumi andYashiro received a French Government scholarship andentered Tony Aubin's class at the Paris Conservatoire.
While Yashiro loved Aubin's academic methods,Mayuzumi returned to Japan after a year. In Paris,however, he had discovered Pierre Schaeffer's tapemusic, using sounds of trains, street noises andelectronic sounds as composition material. His interestin this led him to the belief that music using ephemeralsounds would replace European traditional music. Healso came to know Var?¿se and Messiaen before andafter his arrival in Paris.
Drawing on these diverse influence, Mayuzumicame to hold a leading position in Japanese music, evenbefore his studies in Paris. In his Divertimento for TenInstruments (1948), he showed a complete command ofthe neo-classical techniques of Stravinsky, Milhaud andIbert, and created a kind of stateless music, appropriatefor a man from Yokohama. In Sphenogramme for EightPlayers (1950), he displays exotic elements, making useof ethnic styles from India and Indonesia, and by usingIfukube-style ostinato in many places. The work wasgiven an award in the ISCM (International Society ofContemporary Music) Festival in 1951 and wasperformed in Frankfurt. In Symphonic Mood hesummed up his musical experiences in war-time, usingelements from Latin music and Southeast Asian music.
His skilful, powerful orchestration amazed Japanesecomposers, earning him a reputation as an enfantterrible of the post-war music world.
The two orchestral works, Bacchanal (1954) andTonepleromas '55 (1955), completed after Mayuzumi'sreturn from France, aim at powerful, paternal,\pleromas" sounds, as if to combine jazz, Latin music,Var?¿se and Stravinsky, by unique instrumentation,where wind instruments are mainly used. Bacchanalwas performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New YorkPhilharmonic, and Mayuzumi believed that his uniquerhythms, harmonies and orchestration exerted someinfluence on Bernstein's West Side Story.
X-Y-Z (1953), in which real sounds including criesof animals and sounds of firing guns are used, is thefirst-ever piece of musique concr?¿te in Japan.
Mayuzumi also created the first piece of electronicmusic in Japan, in the electronic music studio of NHK,the Japanese public broadcasting station. Sextet forWinds and Piano (1955) and Mikrokosmos for SevenPlayers (1957) try to combine "pleromas" sounds withpost-Webern style, then the latest trend.
In 1950 Mayuzumi started to write music for filmsand created some 250 works throughout his career, hisversatility enabling him to meet any popularrequirements. He wrote a number of fascinating themesongs for film and his "pleromas" sounds, his speciality,were especially effective in action movies. He alsocomposed for television, radio and the theatre, inaddition to writing jazz songs and French chansons forrecord companies. Following the example ofHashimoto, he used the most advanced techniques ofcomposition, and at the same time wrote pop music,following his teacher's example in his music and in hislife-style.
In the mid-1950s Mayuzumi was inspired by thesounds of bells from Buddhist temples in the ancientcity of Kyoto. When composing electronic music, herecorded bell sounds and analysed the structures of theircomplex overtones, using newly acquired technology.
He then transferred the analysed sounds to a symphonyorchestra with sextuple winds and combined theorchestra with male chorus singing Buddhist priests'chant-like prayer Shomyo