MATSUDAIRA: Bugaku Dance Suite / Theme and Variations for Piano and Orchestra

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Yoritsune MATSUDAIRA (1907-2001)

Theme and Variations for Piano and Orchestra Sa-Mai U-Mai Danza Rituale e Finale

Yoritsune Matsudaira is descended from the Shogunfamily who ruled over Japan from 1603 to 1867, basedin Edo, later changed to Tokyo. The family name of theShogun was originally Matsudaira, and only a limitednumber of people, who possessed the right of inheritingthe shogunate, were allowed to use the nameTokugawa. Yoritsune's direct ancestry was fromYorifusa Tokugawa, the first Shogun's eleventh son,who lived in Hitachi-Fuchu, north-east of Edo. Whenthe Shogun regime came to an end, the imperial family,who had practically been deprived of powers and hadexisted only as a dignified religious and spiritualsymbol, returned to the forefront of politics for the firsttime in six hundred years. Japan's rapid westernisationand modernisation under the Emperor naturallyinvolved a drastic change in the life of the Shogunfamily. Matsudaira's estate in Hitachi-Fuchu wasconfiscated by the new government and the head of thefamily, Yoritsune's grandfather, was given the title ofviscount in return, following the newly introducedaristocracy, modelled on the European system. The nexthead of the family, Yoritaka Matsudaira, Yoritsune'sfather, served the Emperor as manager of the huntingfield and was to leave behind a reputation as anornithologist and a collector of rare stuffed birds.

Yoritsune Matsudaira was born in Tokyo on 5thMay 1907, the first son of the \Viscount of Birds" andheir to the title. On his mother's side he was descendedfrom the Fujiwara family, who had been the mostpowerful nobility at the imperial court from the seventhto the twelfth century and practically governed Japan.

These surroundings imbued him with a peculiarcharacter. He loved artificial things, partly because hegrew up surrounded by stuffed birds, and he detestedevery kind of nationalistic element, because he hadspent his childhood between 1910 and 1920, whenindividualism and liberalism were in fashion, a reactionagainst the nationalism prevalent since the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese Wars. Repelled bymilitarism, aristocracy, heroism and Japaneseconventional homogeneity and collectivism, he evenrefused to wear a uniform at elementary school. Heregarded romanticism and sentimentalism as hishypothetical enemy; he never accepted the priority ofemotions over theories, sensuality over artificiality andcollective solidarity over individuals. Studying theFrench language under French teachers at Gyosei HighSchool, which was founded by a French Catholic order,he became more and more interested in French culture,which further fostered his unique character.

It was not until Matsudaira entered university thathe decided to become a professional musician. In 1925,when he was specialising in French literature at KeioUniversity, he went to a six-evening concert series heldin Tokyo by the French composer and pianist Henri Gil-Marchex, who presented an overview of music historyfrom Bach to Stravinsky. He was strongly impressedand stimulated by this, and finally made up his mind tobecome a composer, despite his limited musicalexperience. He had been no more than an average musiclover, had tried playing the piano his sister wasstudying, and had been moved by Leopold Godowsky'sinterpretations of Chopin, during his visit to Japan in1922.

Now awakened to music, Matsudaira started hisstudies of the piano and music theory under KosukeKomatsu, a former pupil of Vincent d'Indy in Paris, andof Charles Loutrup and Heinrich Werckmeister, thenteaching in Tokyo. Starting late, but showingremarkable progress in a short period, he began topublish his own works as early as late 1920s. He wasalso active as a pianist around 1930, playing Debussyand Satie, his favourite composers.

Matsudaira's interest in this period was directed tostrong attachment to artificial things, anti-romanticismand French style neo-classicism, as was to be expectedfrom the French-orientation of his thinking. His idolswere Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud and Tansman, the last aPolish composer living in Paris. He tried to combinetheir styles with Japanese traditional music, although hewas extremely selective in his use of Japanese styles. Asan anti-nationalist and an anti-sentimentalist, herejected secular festive music for the masses, andShamisen music which, combined with Kabuki andGeisha, flourished in the Tokugawa Shogun era and wasstill quite popular in the first half of the twentiethcentury despite its sheer sentimentalism. One of his firstchoices was folk-songs sung in the Nanbu district, thenorth-eastern part of mainland Japan. Most of thesesongs are peaceful and calm, but in terms of expressionhe actually did not know how they were sung by theNanbu people. All he knew were the scores transcribedby folk-music researchers. Using melodic material fromthem, he created artificial paradise-like music, lackingany element of earthiness, in a neo-classical, bitonalstyle. The orchestral piece Pastoral written in this stylewon second prize in the 1935 Tcherepnin Prize, whichwas held in Paris by the Russian composer AlexanderTcherepnin, who had spent long periods in Shanghaiand in Tokyo, with a view to introducing Japaneseworks to the world. Among the jury were big names likeRoussel, Ibert, Honegger and Tansman. Anotherorchestral piece Nanbu Folk-Songs also won an awardin the 1939 Weingartner Prize, which was held by theconductor Felix Weingartner, then in Japan, with thesame purpose as Tcherepnin's award. In addition tothat, Tcherepnin sponsored the publication ofMatsudaira's piano and chamber pieces, along withworks by other Japanese composers of his generation,including Yasuji Kiyose, Bun'ya Ko and Akira Ifukube.

These were published by G. Schirmer and UniversalEdition, and Matsudaira was widely recognised as oneof the leading Japanese composers of the newgeneration. During this period, he studied withTcherepnin in Tokyo and was inspired by his idolTansman, who visited Japan at this time.

During World War II, Matsudaira was largelysilent. The trend of the times required patriotic,rapturous, optimistic, or, in some cases, pathetic pieces,but he had no intention of writing such music. He didwrite some occasional pieces like Mongolian March forbrass band, but except for those few works, he shuthimself away and devoted most of his time to studyingfurther skills and to deepening his thoughts, continuingto write music of his own, without any prospect ofperformance. This period marked the shift of his interestfrom the Nanbu folk-songs to Gagaku. Matsudaira wasnot so much a Beethoven-type composer, creatingmotifs for himself and developing them, but more akinto Ravel or Stravinsky, who varies, metamorphoses andrefines pre-existing materials. He was, therefore, alwaysin need of material and he finally discovered an idealone, with which to play. It was Gagaku.

Among various types of Japanese traditional music,Gagaku has one of the best lineages, in which nativeJapanese music is integrated, under complex theories,with music from China, Korea, India and Vietnam.

Most Gagaku pieces are instrumental, although someare accompanied by songs and dances. Gagakudeveloped gradually in the imperial court from the fifthcentury, culminating during the ninth and tenthcenturies, and even today its basic instruments andrepertoire are mostly from those days. Gagaku boastsseveral hundred pieces and various types of instrument,including the sho (a kind of mouth organ), hichiriki(oboe), ryuteki (flute), biwa (lute), and so (long zither).

Matsudaira was naturally charmed by Gagaku.

Descended from a courtly noble family, who enjoyedand handed down Gagaku, he found here a type ofmusic that kept its ancient form, because it was playedonly in the imperial court and in some temples, almostdisconnected from the mass
Catalogue number 8555882
Barcode 0747313588220
Release date 11/01/2004
Label Naxos
Format CD
Number of discs 1
Artists Nodaira, Ichiro
Nodaira, Ichiro
Composers Matsudaira, Yoritsune
Matsudaira, Yoritsune
Conductors Takaseki, Ken
Takaseki, Ken
Orchestras Osaka Century Orchestra
Osaka Century Orchestra
Producers Newble, Peter
Newble, Peter
Disc: 1
Danza Rituale e Finale (Chogeishi)
1 Theme: Molto lento - Adagio
2 Variation I: Andante
3 Variation II: Allegro
4 Variation III: Allegro
5 Variation IV: Lento - Agitato - Lento
6 Variation V: Allegro
7 Variation VI: Allegro (Toccata meccanica) - Lento
8 Preludietto: Fragment 1
9 Preludietto: Fragment 9
10 Preludietto: Fragment 5
11 Preludietto: Fragment 12
12 Preludietto: Fragment 8
13 Preludietto: Fragment 4
14 Preludietto: Fragment 2
15 Preludietto: Fragment 6
16 Preludietto: Fragment 10
17 Preludietto: Fragment 11
18 Preludietto: Fragment 7
19 Preludietto: Fragment 3
20 Preludietto: Fragment 13
21 Preludio (6 Fragments)
22 Coda: Fragment A - 1
23 Coda: Fragment A - 5
24 Coda: Fragment A - 3
25 Coda: Fragment A - 4
26 Coda: Fragment A - 2
27 Coda: Fragment A - 6
28 Introduzione
29 Preludio
30 Interludio
31 Movimento principale
32 Finale
33 I. Jo (Piccolo preludio)
34 II. Ha (Movimento principale)
35 III. Kyu (Finale)
36 Danza Finale
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