TAKEMITSU:  I Hear The Water Dreaming.  Toward The Sea I.  Le Fils Des Étoiles.  Toward The Sea II.  And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind.  Toward The Sea III.  Air.
Patrick Gallois, flute/G–ran S–llscher, guitar/Fabrice Pierre, harp/Pierre Henri Xuereb, viola/BBC Symphony Orch/Andrew Davis, cond.

DGG 453 459 (F) (DDD) 

Again we have DGG to thank for enlarging our experience of the late Toru Takemitsu's ever-subtler, ever more refined voice during the second half of a career that began formally in 1950.  Here is a collection of music for flute in various combinations, with solo Air at the end from an unfinished work in progress—a concerto for AurËle Nicolet's impending 70th birthday. The contents include three different versions of the same music, Toward the Sea, composed in 1981 for alto flute and guitar in support of Greenpeace. Later that same year Takemitsu reworked it for alto flute, harp and string orchestra, and in 1989 made a third version for unaccompanied alto flute and harp . Each version has three movements prefaced by phrases from Moby Dick.

The featured work, I Hear the Water Dreaming, inspired by a Western Australian aboriginal painting, was written in 1987 for flutist Paula Robison (the only other work here requiring orchestra). And Then I Knew 'twas Wind (a line by Emily Dickinson) was composed in 1992 for flute, viola and harp—the same combination used by Debussy in his 1915 sonata, which the viola quotes. The earliest work in DGG's newest 20/21 collection is a 1975 transcription for flute and harp of Erik Satie's prelude Les filles d'Ètoiles.

Gallois is a devoted advocate throughout; he may lack the showmanship of a James Galway or a Jean Pierre Rampal, but is no less master of the flute. His associates one and all are peers, finely tuned to the French influence in Takemitsu's protean genius. Even conductor Andrew Davis manages not to sound dutiful or lethargic.

Good Y2K sonics seal a bargain, although listeners are cautioned not to expect unfettered expression, much less fireworks. You must seek out Arc or Asterism for those, both featuring piano and orchestra, and hope that EMI will someday  import its new digital  remastering of Cassiopeia, the concerto he wrote in 1970 for percussion virtuoso Stomu Yamash'ta, which no single player since has succeeded in mastering. Yamash'ta recorded it in Tokyo with Seiji Ozawa before the official world premiere at Chicagoland's Ravinia Festival in 1971, and it is a hair-raiser—relentless, almost shockingly dissonant music considering the peaceable kingdoms encountered in so many other of Takemitsu's works at the time, and especially later.

R.D. (July 2000)