IFUKUBE: Sinfonia Tapkaara / Ritmica Ostinata / Symphonic Fantasia No.1

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Akira Ifukube (b.1914)

Sinfonia Tapkaara Ritmica Ostinata Symphonic Fantasia No. 1

Akira Ifukube was born in 1914 in Hokkaido into afamily whose ancestry could be traced back at least tothe seventh century, serving as hereditary Shinto priestsat the Ube Shrine in Tottori. The political and culturalchanges in Japan in the nineteenth century and the lossof traditional aristocratic power led Ifukube'sgrandfather to move to the relatively neglected northernisland of Hokkaido, where his father held an officialposition. Hokkaido brought contact with the music ofthe inigenous Ainu and of other more recent settlers.

Schooling in Sapporo introduced him to the latestwestern music through records and scores of Ravel, deFalla and Stravinsky, to whose styles he felt close,suggesting that it might be possible for him to createNorth Asian music, where the ethnic sounds andaesthetics of Ainu and Japanese were to be combinedwith his sympathy for Slavic elements. Particularlyfascinated by Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps, hebegan composing by teaching himself in his lateadolescence.

In 1935, when he was a student majoring in forestryat the Agricultural Department of Hokkaido ImperialUniversity, Ifukube applied for the Tcherepnin Awardswith his Japanese Rhapsody for full orchestra (Naxos8.555071) and was chosen by the Paris jury for firstprize. The work received its world premi?¿re in Tokyo in1936, by Fabien Sevitsky (Serge Koussevitsky'snephew) and the Boston People's Symphony Orchestra.

This success brought Ifukube an opportunity forstudying briefly with Tcherepnin in Yokohama. In 1938his first work, Piano Suite, received an award at theVenice International Contemporary Music Festival.

Some of Ifukube's works were published in the UnitedStates and Europe, sponsored by Tcherepnin, withsuccess that astonished the musical world in Tokyo.

Ifukube, however, remained a \Sunday composer" for along time, becoming a forestry officer after graduationand living in the deep mountains of Hokkaido. He readabout musical theories and studied scores, composingonly at night lit by the lamp in his hut. His way of lifereflected his antipathy to the Occidental concept ofmodern urban life. In these surroundings he studied themusic of northern races and wrote some importantworks, including his Symphony Concerto for piano andorchestra (1941) and Symphonic Ballade (1943).

After World War II Ifukube eventually became aprofessional composer and moved to Tokyo. In thosedays, many of his contemporaries were eager toassimilate avant-garde music from Europe, but Ifukubewas against the movement and kept composingconsistently in an ethnic style, finally winningacceptance. His music, brimming with multi-culturalmelodies and rhythms, persistent ostinato and violentrhythms, has exerted influence even on Japanese popmusic. Ifukube is a cult figure for those who aspire forand advocate Asian music in modern Japan. It is alsopossible to define his repetitive music in relation tominimalist or post-minimalist music. He taught atTokyo University of Fine Arts and Music and TokyoCollege of Music, even assuming the post of dean of thelatter. His pupils include Yasushi Akutagawa, ToshiroMayuzumi, Akio Yashiro, Teizo Matsumura, Sei Ikeno,Minoru Miki and Maki Ishii. Ifukube is a prolificcomposer and his list of works covers music fororchestra, cantatas, music for ballet, pieces for chamberensemble, piano and guitar, music for Japanesetraditional instruments, songs based on northern folkmusic,and some three hundred film scores. In additionto that, he wrote a definitive work on orchestration, usedby most Japanese composers. The present releasecontains three works representing Ifukube'scompositions after the war.

Sinfonia Tapkaara was completed in 1954 and hadits premi?¿re in Indianapolis in January of the followingyear by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra underSevitzky. The work was later revised and the newversion was first given in Tokyo in April 1980, withYasushi Akutagawa and the New Symphony Orchestra.

It has since been played widely in Japan. It is scored fortriple wind, harp, varied percussion and strings.

Tapkaara denotes a dance style of the Ainu, danced bythe tribal leader on rituals and feasts, often expressinggratitude for the blessings of nature. This would befamiliar to Ifukube, who, while not making such full useof Ainu music, reflects his antipathy towards moderncivilisation and avant-garde music. The first movementin quasi-sonata form starts with a Lento moltointroduction, leading to an Allegro, its second themepresented by trumpet over clarinet, harp and strings,sounding like a primitive lullaby or nursery rhymecommonly found in Ainu and Japanese traditionalmusic. There is an Andante development, where the twothemes are treated in a slow march tempo. After slowepisodes by solo horn and solo cello, the music movesto the recapitulation and conclusion. The ternary-formAdagio has a first theme that suggests the traditional ryoor ritsu pentatonic scales, together with a descendingfigure that reflects miyako-bushi, a traditionalpentatonic scale symbolizing sadness. The composerdescribes this movement as an impression of a calmnight in Otofuke. The third movement, Vivace, vividlyevokes Ainu celebration, with overt use of the Tapkaaradance and scale.

Ritmica Ostinata for piano and orchestra wascompleted in 1961 and had its premi?¿re in Tokyo inOctober of the same year with the soloist Yutaka Kanaiand the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra under MasashiUeda. The composer later revised part of the score andthe present version appeared in 1972. Theinstrumentation is the same as Sinfonia Tapkaara. Thisconcertante work has four chief characteristics. The firstis the persistent use of ostinato. The second is thereliance on the hexatonic scale, a potential for the basisof pan-pentatonic or pan-Asiatic music, if extracted andemployed appropriately, a possible link between thepentatonic and heptatonic scales, Orient and Occident.

The third feature is the frequent use of metres of fiveand seven beats, reflecting literary tradition, and thefourth is the non-pianistic treatment of the solo part,suggesting the dulcimer or the santur, or even the kotoand biwa. The work is in a form suggesting a rondo,with an Allegro framing slower sections.

Ifukube later made his living mainly by teachingand by writing music for films, particularly between1947 and 1970, although he continued to write suchmusic from time to time after that date. The filmdirectors he worked with include Akira Kurosawa,Mikio Naruse and Joseph von Sternberg, and he held aposition parallel to that of Toru Takemitsu and FumioHayasaka. His music for the cinema includes manymonster films like Godzilla. Symphonic Fantasia No.1is a medley-like concert arrangement by the composerhimself of his music for monster films represented bythe Godzilla series. The work, first given in Tokyo inAugust 1983 by Yasuhiko Shiozawa and the TokyoSymphony Orchestra, has been performed all overJapan. The introduction is based on the Appearance ofGodzilla motif frequently used in the Godzilla series. Itis grotesque chromatic music, using all the twelve notesof the octave. Then follows the title music for Godzilla(1954), the title music for King Kong versus Godzilla(1962), the love theme from Battle in Outer Space(1959), the Varagon motif from Frankenstein versusVaragon (1965), and the battle music of Godzilla andthe monster Radon from Ghidrah (1964), whereGodzilla is depicted by the motif used in theintroduction and Radon by a chromatic motif on thetrumpet. After a fanfare comes the march section, wherethe march from Battle in Outer Space and the quasipentatonicpastoral march from the 1968 film DestroyAll Monsters are interwoven.

Abridged from notes by Morihide Katayama

Item number 8557587
Barcode 747313258727
Release date 10/01/2005
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Saranceva, Ekaterina
Saranceva, Ekaterina
Composers Ifukube, Akira
Ifukube, Akira
Conductors Yablonsky, Dmitry
Yablonsky, Dmitry
Orchestras Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Disc: 1
Symphonic Fantasia No. 1
1 Lento molto - Allegro
2 Adagio
3 Vivace
4 Ritmica Ostinata for Piano and Orchestra
5 Symphonic Fantasia No. 1
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