Music of Training and Rest
Largely self taught but hugely influenced by the music of Debussy and later Messiaen, Toru Takemitsu was the first Japanese composer to receive international recognition for a series of highly individual pieces that includes a Requiem for String Orchestra and the orchestral work A Flock Descends in the Pentagonal Garden.
Though Takemitsu was regarded primarily as a concert-hall composer, music for the cinema formed a huge but commonly overlooked part of his output. The composer was an avid film devotee (by his own admission he watched over 250 each year) and wrote two books on the subject. Over a period of 40 years he also provided the music for nearly a hundred films, ranging from Ran, Akiro Kurosawa’s epic retelling of King Lear, to the Japanese-set Hollywood action movie Rising Sun, which starred Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes. His chameleon-like ability to adapt his musical voice to the needs of the project reflected his ideology that each new film should be given a distinctive sound world.
In 1994, Takemitsu reworked the music from three of these scores into a suite for string orchestra. The first of these, Music of Training and Rest, was taken from one of his earliest scores, for Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1959 documentary about Puerto Rican boxer José Torres. The film was shot in the gyms of New York, a setting Takemitsu reflects in music with a jazzy, bluesy feel.
Though not itself taken from the music of a film score, cinema is also at the heart of Nostalghia for violin and string orchestra, a piece commissioned for violinist Yehudi Menuhin and premiered at the 1987 Edinburgh International Festival with composer Peter Maxwell Davies conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Takemitsu decided to write a memorial to film director Andrei Tarkovsky, regarded as the greatest Soviet film maker director since Eisenstein, who had recently died in exile in Paris. Nostalghia is the title of Tarkovsky’s last completed film, which explores the feelings of longing for his homeland experienced by a Russian poet visiting Italy in order to research an eighteenth-century expatriate Russian composer.
Takemitsu’s work derives from the mood of the film; describing his music he wrote; “a simple and pathetic melody, introduced by the solo violin, is dominant throughout the music. Occasionally the fractionalized string orchestra creates the feeling of water and mist, which is a characteristic in films directed by Tarkovsky, and yet the music as a whole remains wrapped in a gentle and elegiac sentiment.”
with music by Toru Takemitsu