Some composers' fame goes out like a light when they shuffle off their mortal coil. Others' fame just goes on growing: such has been the case with Toru Takemitsu since his death in 1996.
His quintessentially Japanese musical aesthetic, where silence is as important as sound, and where the progress of a piece is like a walk through a landscaped garden, is still winning converts among Western composers. For the festival to programme the classic films he scored was a smart gambit, since cinema was where his musical philosophy evolved.
The ruminative Takemitsu piano piece played by his compatriot Akiko Yamamoto at Mansion House was very short but it lingered in the mind long after the last note had died away. Takemitsu was a lifelong Francophile, and Rain Tree Sketch 2 was his homage to the French composer he most admired, Olivier Messiaen. One could hear Messiaen-style tone-clusters throughout, but Takemitsu had woven them into his own limpid sound-world: Yamamoto's subtle playing allowed us to savour the way each cluster was stretched and opened out. The Debussy Estampes, with which she'd begun, reflected a different East-West debt, as the sound of the Javanese gamelan was put through Debussy's whole-tone blender: here, her touch was muscular and precise.
Then she was joined by four lads from France - the Quatuor Ebene - for a performance of a Mozart rarity: the Piano Concerto in A major, K414, in Mozart's own arrangement for piano and string quartet.
This was a revelation, in that one forgot all thoughts of orchestras in the pleasure of seeing the music's pure lines emerge, and finding piano and strings in perfect dynamic balance. The slow movement ventured boldly into dark harmonic realms, the finale scampered out into the sunlight.
This talented group wound up their concert with a brilliant performance of Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, with the piano acting as a firm anchor, while the strings sang their hearts out. Come back soon.
This festival wisely capitalises on the City's hidden architectural gems: I had never been inside St Lawrence Jewry, and to sit in that exquisite 18th-century church was an experience in itself - if acoustically a problematic one.Reuse content