Landscapes of Japan
The reinvention of modern Japanese songs, by Taeko Kusano
Landscapes of Japan is a collection of seventeen works, all new arrangements of Japanese folk and modern art songs. While preserving the distinct, poetic qualities of Japanese music, they have been reshaped into universally appealing works that transcend national boundaries. Modern Japanese songs evolved from folk songs and modern European music assimilated into the Japanese idiom, which were popular from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century. Living in an age in which they can listen to a variety of music from all parts of the world, contemporary Japanese people consider most of these songs, though nostalgic, a bit old-fashioned and outdated. The music on this CD, however, creates a refreshingly new image. Clearly, it has "reinvented" the modern Japanese song.
Message from the arranger, Kazunori Maruyama
When Phillip Moll and his musician friends performed in Japan, they sometimes asked meto arrange fold and other kinds of Japanese songs for them. One day I realized that I had arranged more than a dozen songs. The works recorded on this CD were born from this long collaboration with Phillip and his friends over the years.
Having grown up with European and American music from my childhood, they are a part of my flesh and blood. In my case, Japanese and Western music have blended inside me and cannot be separated. And so, when I did these arrangements, I put my trust in the universality of the musical language and focused on the joy of having my works performed by world-class talents rather than on bringing out the special characteristics of the Japanese melody. I believe this work was less about "arranging" and more about "composing" rhapsodies, capriccios, interludes and preludes using themes from Japanese songs. In these pieces, I have tried to translate the charm of the natural, free-flowing tempo of Japanese folk songs, which is particularly noticeable in Esashi oiwake and Kariboshikiri-uta, into a cool-jazz style of chord progression.
When I do arrangements like these, the compositional method used by Bela Bartok or Yoshio Mamiya always serves as a good model for me - reconstructing the musical system through folk songs and elevating them to the role of players in the development of modern and contemporary music.
About the musicians
Thomas Bacon was principal horn of the Houston Symphony and prior to that, prinripal of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Detroit Symphony. He has held professorships at Rice and Arizona State Universities. He is also a versatile soloist and ensemble player and one of the few horn players to perform jazz. Bacon has made many recordings and is editor or the Complete Hornist series of publications of unusual repertoire for horn and piano.
In 1997, Davide Formisano became the youngest-ever principal flutist of the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Born in Milan in 1974, he graduated with the highest marks plus distinction under the guidance of M° C. Tabarelli, further perfecting his abilities with Bruno Cavallo, Jean-Claude Gerard at Stuttgart Musikhochschule and Aurele Nicolet in Basel.
While still a teenager, he won the First Prize at the Galileo Galilei competition and at the Stresa International Competition, earning high honors in all the major international competitions. At seventeen, he took part in the Jean-Pierre Rampal Competition in Paris, gaining the "Prix Special du Jury". During the next few years he was awarded the 1st prize at the Budapest Flute Competition, and 2nd prize (the 1st was not awarded) at the renowned ARD Competition in Munich.
As the First Italian Flautist to receive such honors, the young Davide Formisano had already performed with the major European youth ensembles, such as the Italian Youth Orchestra, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and the European Community Youth Orchestra, led by such prominent conductors as Lorin Maazel, Carlo Maria Giulini and Kurt Sanderling.
In 1995 he obtained the principal flute position at the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, getting the same position in the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra one year later. Now he is Principal Flute in the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. In this capacity he has worked with major conductors, including Carlo Maria Giulini, Zubin Mehta, Wolfgang Savallisch, Valery Gergev, Myung wun Chung, George Pretre, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Riccardo Muti, Daniel Baremboim, Daniele Gatti and Riccardo Chailly.
Davide Formisano combined his orchestral role with a brilliant and growing career as chamber music player and soloist. He performed all around Europe and Japan with such partners as Bruno Canino, Radovan Vlatkovic, Phillip Moll, Sergio Azzolini and Fabio Biondi, and has been soloist with distinguished orchestras; among them the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Dresdner Kapellsolisten, St. Petersburg Philharmonic and Tonhalle Ensemble in Zurich. From the autumn of 2007 he hold a professorship for flute at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, as successor to Jean-Claude Gérard .
Jean-Claude Gérard was Formisano's teacher. Well-known as both a performer and an educator, he has mentored many outstanding flutists. He studied with Gaston Crunel at the Paris Conservatory, in the same class as James Galway, and also with Marcel Moyse. He has held the position of principal flute at the Opéra in Paris and at the Hamburg State Opera, before accepting a professorship at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart in 1989. A member of the ensemble of the Villa Musica in Germany, he has performed and recorded a large chamber music repertoire.
Hamburg-born Daniel Gaede began to study violin at the age of 6. At age 13, he made his debut at the Mozart Festival in Würzburg. After winning numerous international competitions he studied at the Berlin College of Arts and at Indiana University with Josef Gingold. He served as concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for six years from 1994 and performs frequently as soloists and ensemble player. He is professor at the Music University of Nuremberg-Augsburg.
Chicago-born pianist Phillip Moll, living in Berlin since 1970, has accompanied such renowned soloists as Kathleen Battle, Kyung Wha Chung, James Galway, Jessye Norman and Akiko Suwanai. He has made over 50 recordings with a wide variety of musicians. He holds a professorship in song interpretation at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig.
The vocal numbers on this CD are sung by Yuko Takemichi. Born in Miyazaki, Japan, she is a graduate of Kunitachi Music University and a member of the Nikikai Opera company. She performs art songs, opera, ethnic music as well as musical comedy. She studied koto from age 11 and performs frequently on this traditional Japanese instrument. She lives in Berlin and Tokyo with her husband Phillip Moll and coordinated the production of their previous CD, Evening Welcome, as well as Landscapes of Japan.
The percussionist in Yagibushi is Toru Uematsu, a member of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. A versatile performer, he studed Japanese taiko with Kyosuke Suzuki.
Founded in 1991, the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Trio consists of Berlin Philharmonic members Rüdiger Liebermann, violinist and Christoph Igelbrink, cellist, in addition to pianist Phillip Moll. Their recording of trios by Dvořák and Suk is available on the Summit label. On the present CD, Igelbrink joins soprano Yuko Takemichi for a dramatic performance of Takeda no komoriuta.
An indispensable presence in this project has been that of the composer Kazunori Maruyama, who arranged most of the music. Born in Tokyo, he graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and has composed for a variety of musical genres: classic, jazz, popular and traditional Japanese. He has composed many scores for television, film and animation. His unique style of arranging is always a fresh source of stimulation for the performers.
Mike Mower, British composer and jazz flutist, contributed one arrangement to this CD. Mike's activities include composing, publishing and recording classical as well as jazz and popular music. He has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Gil Evans, Tina Turner, Paul Weller, Bjork, Airto Moreira and James Galway.
The recordings were made at the Traumton studio in Berlin and produced by Christian Feldgen.