Fine Music Magazine - March 2013
Tomoe Kawabata & Aura Go: Five Rocks in a Japanese Garden
Five Rocks in a metaphorical reference to five Japanese composers, whose activities during the last half century have passed largely unnoticed outside their own country. Which provides us with an opportunity to explore “some exciting new discoveries” in the realm of works for two pianos, and piano duets, in the form of this attractively packaged CD. A French connection is already apparent from the titles, which is attributed to Tomojiro Ikenouchi, who returned from an extended period studying at the Paris Conservatoire to introduce his students to those aspects of French composition that had so captivated him.
The influence of both Ravel and Debussy are especially strong, and you could almost believe that had they continued to evolve their unique styles further into the 20th century, these may well have been compositions that they would have been happy to add to their own portfolios. It is as if they both brushed against the concepts of atonality and abstraction, without being inclined to adopt either as their own preferred practice. Heard now in another century, these pieces add a touch of modernity beyond the point we are already familiar with.
Rocks they may well be in metaphorical terms, but in a more artistic sense these five composers all delight in creating music that sparkles and bubbles without ever evaporating into forgettable triviality. There is little here that sounds overtly Japanese, the two pianists are happy to take their lead from Ikenouchi’s French influences, and complement each other in everything from plaintive atmospherics to full-on virtuosity.