YOSHIMATSU:  Symphony No. 4, Op. 82. Trombone Concerto 'Orion Machine,' Op. 55.  Atom Hearts Club Suite No. 1, Op. 70b.
Ian Bousfield, trombone; BBC Philharmonic/Sachio Fujioka, cond.

CHANDOS 9960 (F) (DDD) TT:  61:22

A year ago, perhaps longer, I reviewed a Chandos coupling of Takashi Yoshimatsu's saxophone concerto and Third Symphony by the same expert conductor and orchestra as here, now 24-bit recorded rather than 20, and even more brilliantly. The concerto was fascinating as an extension of the instrument’s conventional capabilities, in an easy listening, Progressive Jazz context, although I didn't keep the disc because of its companion piece (REVIEW).

Now we have a trombone concerto, composed in 1992-93, as fascinating as the one for sax and for the same reason—an extension of the instrument's conventional capabilities, including some borborygmal sounds that might have been removed for politeness' if not for music's sake. It is, however, what the saxophone concerto was not—a spin on Toru Takemitsu, the composer's greatest, lamentably late countryman .

"Orion Machine" Yoshimatsu's subtitle, was"suggested to me by the stars of the constellation Orion...." Takemitsu did this more than 30 years ago in Cassiopeia, for solo percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta who preceded Evelyn Glennie by more than a generation, and played rings around that admirable (but also-ran) lady during the decade before he retired from public performing. Takemitsu did it again in GÈmeaux (French for Gemini), his 1972-86 music for double orchestra. The trombone concerto even sounds like Takemitsu at the start—"Betelgeuse," the first of five connected movements (one for each of Orion's stars), is a Largo. "Bellatrix" follows—in the composer's words "a fast movement in big-band-jazz or perhaps brass-rock style, featuring a 5/8 time, ten-beat 'engine room,' or motivic kernel." Let me call it chrome-plated kitsch and move on to "Trapezium"...a dirge he calls"a broken waltz for three stars: Galaxy M42 is located below Orion's belt, so the dirge is in 'MM42 time' - 42 beats per minute on the metronome." By this time literalism has overtaken and subsumed Yoshimatsu's mastery of orchestration. There are still "Saiph" and "Rigel," but you get the idea. This is a mixed-salad concerto, not much fun to hear more than once, despite the awesome virtuosity of Ian Bousefield who—after posts in the HallÈ and London Symphony Orchestra—joined the Vienna Staatsoper and Philharmoniker as principal trombone in Y2K.

As for Symphony No. 4, composed in 2000, Yoshimatsu calls it "a "Pastoral Toy Symphony" in four movements." As in the case of No. 3, the scherzo comes second—this one "interwoven with a chaotic assortment of waltzes by...Berlioz, Bruckner, Shostakovich and Beethoven among others." The third movement is prettiest, like paper flowers—one would like to hear it alone. But if, as I wrote last time, "Symphony No. 3 composed in 1998...reminded me of Hindemith masquerading as Bruckner, minus the esthetic conviction," No. 4 is a gloss on Honegger's Fourth, "The Delights of Basel." Yoshimatsu's problem is, the original was the Real Article by several decades whereas this Fourth inhabits a transitional vacuum in 20h-century French music between Impression and neo-Classicism, with excursions into Dada and postcard music. It is second-hand Rose, and merely clever—occasionally.

After the concerto has ended quietly, Dr. Tarkus' Atom Hearts Club Suite  "combines elements from...[again the composer] the Beatles' masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Tarkus...Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother, and Fragile by Yes." So be it, if he thinks so, but you'll hear no "Amen" from this corner. I don't know the Yes piece, but am lovingly familiar with the others (and from time to time toked or took Mescaline with them back in the late '60s and early '70s). Like Sen. Lloyd Benson's remark to Dan Quayle in 1988, "I knew the Beatles," Pink Floyd's and ELP's music; and you, Yoshimatsu-san, are no Beatles, Pink Floyd or ELP."

And so I continue to hope that Chandos will contribute some of their estimable resources to Sachio Fujioka conducting his Mancusian BBC Philharmonic in music of Takemitsu instead of scrap (heavy) metal trinkets with a shelf-life of, say, three years.

R.D. (Feb. 2002)