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A Vision of Takemitsu

When this recording was first mooted, during Takemitsu's lifetime, he, unsolicited, said that he intended to write me a new piece especially for it. Sadly, that was not to be, but, in the event, I felt I wanted to return the compliment. In 1990, he wrote a two-movement orchestral piece for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the title Visions. The second movement was an orchestral version of Les yeux clos. Takemitsu fiercely maintained that it was not a transcription of the piano piece, but that, as with Redon who made various versions of his Les yeux clos in black and white and in colour, it stood as a new composition. By the same token, I have taken the first movement of Visions, called Mystère, and made a piano solo version of it. In particular, I have "played" the resonances in ways that I have learned from long study of other pieces by Takemitsu; I have called it A Vision of Takemitsu.

Toru Takemitsu's music for solo piano is some of the most distinctive, distinguished and best of the second half of the 20th century, and consistently represents him at his finest. That is, already, saying a lot for his is a quite extraordinary and original oeuvre, a music that, above all, breathes differently.

To invent himself in such a way that he proved quintessentially Japanese whilst, at the same time, taking his rightful place in the hierarchy of composers of the "Western" tradition could not have been easy; there were no models - he was the first. By doing this, not only did he become the first composer from Asia, let alone Japan, to gain widespread acceptance, he taught us in the West many things about our tradition which we had, possibly, overlooked, or which we had assumed were not dominant characteristics. That he should, by his own admission, have started out from Debussy, that, although self-taught, he considered Debussy his teacher, is not surprising. Debussy was, and remains, the composer who made the most radical break with the accepted Western tradition and he did this in very large part from what he had learned from Asian culture. His 'feel' for the East was to find an eager disciple in Takemitsu's 'feel' for the West. Vibration and silence; a concentration on the 'grain' of sound, its character and length as opposed to strong metrical and rhythmic accent; everything organised around qualities of sound patterns rather than around their significance in an architectural scheme; divisions and definitions created out of a wavering flux of sound; the world of dream, water, sea, garden, rain, tree, and wind of which Takemitsu so often spoke, and which is there also in Debussy's titles - the unpredictable, fluctuating forms of nature which mirror, symbolise, are existence itself.

(c) Paul Crossley


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