YAMADA: Symphony in F Major, 'Triumph and Peace'

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K??s?ºak YAMADA (1886-1965)

Overture in D major Symphony in F major 'Triumph andPeace'

Symphonic Poem 'The Dar Gate'  Symphonic Poem 'MadaraNo Hana'

K??s?ºak Yamada belongs to the group of the firstfully-fledged composers that Japan produced. He was also a prominent conductor,organizer, and leader of the Japanese music world. As a great pioneer, heplayed a definitive r??le in helping Western music take root in Japan. In the1860s, after 250 years of isolation, Japan restored extensive contacts withWestern civilization, including music. Military bands were formed and in 1879Ongaku-Torishirabe-Gakari, a national research centre of Western music (laterto become the Tokyo Music School), was founded. Japanese traditional musiciansunder the Emperor started to learn Western music, and Japanese people wereeager to make up for lost time in every field.

Yamada was born in these surroundings on 9th June 1886, thesixth of seven children. His father was formerly a samurai of lower grade inthe Mikawa district (today's Aichi Prefecture), but the end of Japanesefeudalism, with the collapse of the shogun regime, involved the disappearanceof the samurai class. Yamada's father started his new life as a speculator inTokyo, which brought him a large amount of money and a life of debauchery, butit did not last long, and soon after K??s?ºak was born, the family moved toYokosuka, where his father started a bookstore. In this naval city, as theSino-Japanese War drew near, Yamada was enchanted by military bands marchingaround the city, and he tirelessly followed them. He also became familiar withhymns sung in church, as his mother's side of the family was devout Protestantand it is said that his family had a harmonium. Yamada's starting-point as amusician was these sounds of military bands, melodies of hymns, and the timbreand harmonies of the harmonium.

Yamada's life in Yokosuka was brief, as the family lost everythingin a fire, returning to Tokyo when the boy was seven years old. In poverty, hisbrother left the family and his father died of cancer when Yamada was nine.Immediately after that, he was sent to a dormitory school (a night school withprinting facilities), which was run by a clergyman in Sugamo, in the northernpart of Tokyo. In this school he started a life of work, studies and hymns,dreaming of becoming a composer, but heavy work had a serious effect on hishealth, which forced him to spend two years in Kamakura, attended by hismother. After recovering from illness, he worked as an errand-boy in ShimbashiStation and when he was fourteen, he went to Okayama, in the West of Japan,where his thirteen-year-older sister lived. His sister had married anEnglishman, Edward Gauntlet, who had come to Japan through his keen interest inthe Orient and was teaching English at the Sixth High School of Okayama, one ofthe leading schools in Japan. This brother-in-law was from a well-connectedfamily and was an amateur musician and an organist for the Anglican Church.Playing instruments and singing hymns with him, Yamada's dream of becoming acomposer grew. His brother-in-law advised him to be a musician and helped himfinancially. His mother was at first against the idea of a samurai's childbecoming a musician, but when Yamada was seventeen, she died, leaving a willthat allowed him to follow this course. Thus in 1904 Yamada entered the TokyoMusic School, after studying at Kwansei Gakuin High School (a missionaryschool) and having experience in choral work and organ playing.

Although his desire was to become a composer, Yamada's majorstudy at the Tokyo Music School was singing, as the school had no compositiondepartment until the 1930s. It seems that the Japanese government in those daysonly thought of training performers and educators in the field of Westernmusic. Students who hoped to be composers were left to their own devices. Whilestudying the cello and theory under the two German teachers at the school,August Junker, who was a pupil of Joachim, and Heinrich Werkmeister, who wasfrom the Berlin Musikhochschule, Yamada continued to write string quartets,piano pieces, violin pieces, songs and choral works, when in 1910 Werkmeisterrecommended him to his private cello pupil Koyata Iwasaki, who was among theleaders of the Mitsubishi Foundation. Iwasaki promised to help him financiallywith his studies in Berlin. Yamada left for Berlin in high spirits and enteredthe Musikhochschule, Werkmeister's alma mater, in April 1910, studying therewith Max Bruch and, among others, Karl Leopold Wolf.

Yamada's studies in Berlin were quite fruitful andsignificant. He absorbed everything he could in Berlin, while continuing tostudy academic harmony and counterpoint at school. During this Berlin period,he made a series of epoch-making achievements in Japanese music history.Yamada's predecessors had been attempting pieces for wind band, sonatas forsolo instruments and piano-accompanied songs, but Yamada surpassed them inGermany, where he created orchestral pieces, a symphony, symphonic poems and afull-scale opera (including Heavenly Maiden fallen to Earth), all of which werethe first-ever attempts of their kind by a Japanese composer. The presentrecording contains four pieces from this period.

The Overture in D major, completed on 22nd March 1912, isthe first-ever orchestral piece in Japan. The instrumentation is for pairs ofwind instruments, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings. This Allegroassai piece is written in sonata form, but without a development section. Itstarts with the first theme, which ascends up an octave from D. This ample,clear melody is a kind of challenge by the composer to Japanese traditionalmusic, which often moves with less clarity within a narrow range. With thisfirst theme, Yamada makes a bold step for Japanese musical westernization. Thefact that the first work for Western orchestra starts like that is ofhistorical significance. The second theme in A major, presented with softstaccato notes, is gallant in character, spiced with chromaticism. After thestatement of the themes, the first theme in D major returns, followed by thesecond theme in D major this time, and the piece comes to a conclusion.

The Symphony in F major 'Triumph and Peace', which amountsto the first-ever symphony by a Japanese composer, was completed on 8thNovember 1912. It may be that the symphony initially had no title and was giventhe name after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In any case, the work istrue to its name. It contrasts and unites the triumphant hymn to victory and acalm prayer for peace. A pair of musical memories of high-spirited militarymusic and devout hymns in his early days in Yokosuka has now grown into thissymphony. The instrumentation is the same as that of the Overture, with anadditional three trombones. The first movement has a Moderato introduction. ItsF major motif, which later develops into the first theme, contains part of thenational anthem Kimigayo (1880) in its latter half (the descending notesC-A-G-F-D). The fact that he began the first Western-style symphony with thenational anthem witnesses Yamada's determination and confidence in supportingthe westernization and modernization of Japan. Yamada was strongly attached tothe Gagaku-like, beautiful melody of Kimigayo, which meant to him a symbol ofthe strength and sublimity of Japan, and a link between 'triumph' and 'peace'.All his life he continued to use the melody of Kimigayo or its fragmentedmotifs in many of his works, as a metaphor for Japan. The second theme,contrasted with the Kimigayo first theme, is presented in C major. Ascending ina wide range from G through C to an octave higher C, it expresses longing andhope. After the thematic st
Catalogue number 8555350
Barcode 0747313535026
Release date 02/01/2004
Label Naxos
Format CD
Number of discs 1
Composers Yamada, Koscak
Yamada, Koscak
Conductors Yuasa, Takuo
Yuasa, Takuo
Orchestras New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Ulster Orchestra
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Ulster Orchestra
Producers Walton, Andrew
Walton, Andrew
Disc: 1
Symphonic Poem, "Madara No Hana"
1 Overture in D major
2 I. Moderato
3 II. Adagio non tanto e poco marciale
4 III. Poco vivace
5 IV. Adagio molto - Molto allegro e trionfante
6 Symphonic Poem, "The Dark Gate"
7 Symphonic Poem, "Madara No Hana"
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