MOROI: Symphony No. 3, Op. 25 / Sinfonietta, Op. 24 / Two Symphonic Movements, Op. 22 (Ireland National Symphony Orchestra/ Takuo Yuasa/ Tim Handley) (Naxos: 8.557162)
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Saburo Moroi (1903-1977)
Symphony No. 3 Two Symphonic Movements Sinfonietta
A pioneer in Japan in the development of abstractmusic, Saburo Moroi was born in Tokyo on 7th August1903. His family was from Honjo of SaitamaPrefecture, adjacent to the north of Tokyo. His fatherTsunehei Moroi (1862-1941) was a leadingindustrialist. founder of the Chichibu Cement CompanyLimited, an enterprise later taken over by Kan'ichiMoroi (1896-1968), Saburo's older brother, a leadingeconomist and businessman. Saburo grew up,influenced and stimulated by this seven-year-older,scholarly brother, who had a good knowledge of arts ingeneral and was able to play the piano. Saburo wasgiven piano lessons by him in his early years and begancomposing simple pieces as a child. It was in his thirdyear of Junior High School in Tokyo that he made uphis mind to become a composer. His brother took him toa series of recitals by the pianist Sueko Ogura, who hadjust returned to Japan after her studies in Berlin underHeinrich Barth and her stay in the United States. Theprogramme was the Beethoven sonatas.
While studying at Urawa High School and later inthe Literature Department of Tokyo Imperial University(his major was aesthetics and art history), Moroi tookpiano lessons from Eiichi Hagiwara at first, and thenWilly Bardas (Schnabel's pupil, who had lived in Japansince 1923) and Leonid Kochanski (Leonid Kreutzer'spupil, who became professor of Tokyo Music School in1925), as well as teaching himself composition andtheory. His father wanted him to enter the businessworld, but gradually came to understand his son, finallyagreeing in 1930 to his becoming a musician.
It was during his third year at university, Moroiformed a music group \surya" (the "sun god" inSanskrit) with his friends. It served as an organizationfor performing his own works, and by 1931 sevenconcerts had been given there. The first one was fororchestral works and the series included Moroi's PianoConcerto in F sharp minor, Symphonic Fragment,Piano Quintet, String Quartet "Voice of Dream", twoviolin sonatas, two cello sonatas and five piano sonatas.
His activities with "surya" brought wider recognition,and it also became a society for young literary men andartists, including Tetsutaro Kawakami, HideoKobayashi, Chuya Nakahara, Tatsuji Miyoshi, HidemiKon, Shohei O'oka and Kenzo Nakajima, many ofwhom were later to become renowned literary critics,poets and novelists.
Feeling that his compositional skills were not fullydeveloped, Moroi went to Germany in 1932 to study atthe Berlin Musikhochschule under Leo Schrattenholz(who had been an assistant to Karl Leopold Wolf,during the distinguished Japanese composer Kos?ºakYamada's period of study with him) and WalterGmeindl. Greatly stimulated by the music of Brucknerand Hindemith, he returned to Japan in 1934, now amature composer, both technically and mentally, withhis Berlin days a great turning-point in his creativecareer.
Moroi's creative life, in its true sense, started fromhis Berlin days, as he himself claimed. Works from thisperiod include Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 5, StringQuartet, Op. 6, Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 7, andSymphony No. 1, Op. 8, all of which were composedand first performed in Berlin. After returning to Japan,he produced his Viola Sonata, Op. 11, Cello Concerto,Op. 12, Bassoon Concerto, Op. 14, Flute Sonata, Op.
15, Symphony No. 2, Op. 16, String Sextet, Op. 17,Violin Concerto, Op. 18, String Trio, Op. 19 and PianoSonata No. 2, Op. 20. They were written during thefruitful period between 1933 and 1939. His reputationwas also enhanced during this period, especially by twosuccessful premi?¿res: the Japanese premi?¿re ofSymphony No. 1 and the world premi?¿re of SymphonyNo. 2. In these works, Moroi assimilated the solidframework of German music and tried, little by little,various ways of reflecting a Japanese sense of beautywithin it, from the 1940s turning to a more acceptablyJapanese way of musical thinking, as can be heard in thethree orchestral works on this disc, which date from1942-44.
Sinfonietta in B flat, Op. 24, was composed in ashort period between the 6th and 31st October 1943,and was broadcast only five days after its completionwith the composer conducting the Tokyo BroadcastOrchestra. The instrumentation consists of doublewinds, brass, timpani and strings, and the work issubtitled "For Children". The first movement, Allegrograzioso, is in B flat, 3/4 time and sonata form. It isfollowed by the ternary Andantino quasi Allegretto, aminuet in G. The third movement, marked Lentoaffabile, in 4/4 time, starts in B minor and shifts to B flatmajor afterwards. It is in ternary form, with a coda. Itcontains thematic elements clearly of Japaneseinspiration.
Two Symphonic Movements, Op. 22, was completedon 9th May 1942, and was first given on 9th April of thefollowing year by Hisatada Odaka and the JapanSymphony Orchestra (today's NHK SymphonyOrchestra). The first movement, Andante grandioso, insonata form, is opened by the first theme instraightforward unison of horns and strings. This theme,made up of seven notes (which can be regarded as theconstituents for C minor or E flat major), starts with G,which is repeated three times with a half note and twoquavers. It is followed by a string of scale-like notes ineven rhythm of quavers. These three characteristicelements of the theme (repetition of the same note, evenrhythm and scale-like notes) are omnipresentthroughout the two movements. A secondary theme isbased on the Miyako-bushi pentatonic scale often usedin Kabuki and Geisha music. The second movement,Allegro con spirito, has a flashy introduction. Then theviola, clarinet and flute play the main theme one afteranother. It is formed by combining a scherzo-like motif(consisting of two perfect fourths and a descendingminor scale) and a hectic one (made up of even rhythmin semiquavers and the repetition of the same note). Thelatter motif is a variant of the rhythmic motif whichdrove the first movement. The two movements areclosely tied by this design. Moroi's intention in thiswork was to fuse two themes into one, or to maintainmusic with only one theme. Why he tried this mighthave something to do with the traditional nature of theJapanese, who do not like friction of different opinions,and with the fact that Japan was going to build atotalitarian, homogeneous, and friction-free society notonly in Japan but also throughout Asia. His attempt wasto be explored further in his next symphony.
Symphony No. 3 Op. 25 was written between 11thApril 1943 and 26th May 1944, which means that he setabout this symphony immediately after the premi?¿re ofTwo Symphonic Movements, producing Sinfonietta onthe way. The instrumentation is woodwinds (3-3-3-3),brass (4-3-3-1), timpani, side drum, bass drum, stringsand organ. The first movement is made up of anintroduction subtitled "A Tranquil Overture" andmarked Andante molto tranquillo e grandioso, in 3/2time. This is followed by an Allegro vivace in 6/4 time,with the title "Birth of Spirit and its Growth". This is inthe quasi-sonata form devised by Moroi. The violinsuggests the first motif made up of three notes (E-F-G),which is repeated in various positions. Then, as if tointerrupt it, the trombone plays the second motif, whichis strongly accented and moves up and downawkwardly. The two motifs are developed for sometime, when the chromatic, chorale-like third motif isadded by the oboe and the trombone. At this pointsomething strange happens. The three motifs, whichappeared quite different from each other, are nowarranged and connected together into a long singlemelody, amounting to the true theme of the main part.
This is an evolved form of the idea for the firstmovement of Two Symphonic Movements, a devicebetter suited to the Japanese tradition of harmony ratherthan conflict