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Zen-On Publishes Ten New Publications by Hitomi Kaneko, Tokuhide Niimi, Joe Hisaishi, and others

Jul. 15, 2021

Zen-On Publishes Ten New Publications by Hitomi Kaneko, Tokuhide Niimi, Joe Hisaishi, and others

On July 15, Zen-On released three new publications: two by Joe Hisaishi, and one composed jointly by Akira Nishimura and Ichiro Nodaira.

Joe Hisaishi's The Border (2020) is a concerto for three horns and orchestra. It was premiered by the Future Orchestra Classics, and soloists Nobuaki Fukukawa, Mika Toyoda, and Marie Fujita, under the composer's baton, on February 13, 2020 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall. Joe Hisaishi describes this work:

"The Border was composed at the request of horn player Nobuaki Fukukawa. The work comprises three movements in total and is about 24 minutes long.

I. Crossing Lines is based on 16th note rhythms accenting every third, fifth, seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth note. In other words, the rhythm is totally dominant, and to easily see this structure, notes are constructed using a simple scale.

II. The Scaling is based on a scale consisting of seven notes, G#-A-B-C#-D-E-F#. I tried to maintain a logical structure while drawing out the expressive power and potential of the horn.

III. The Circles has a structure close to that of the rondo form. This movement reaches its climax as interactions between the horn and tutti sections evolve. I reconstructed the music from the third movement of Chamber Symphony for Electric Violin and Chamber Orchestra that I had previously written. Having the horns and orchestra play a completely different piece was an unexpected joy."

The Border was recorded by Universal Sigma (UMCK-1682).

Joe Hisaishi's Contrabass Concerto (2015) was commissioned by NIPPON TV and was premiered on October 29, 2015 by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Shigeru Ishikawa, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre Concert Hall, led by Joe Hisaishi. The composer notes:

"Contrabass Concerto was commissioned to be performed alongside Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana on the Nippon Television program “Yomikyo Symphonic Live.” The solo contrabass part was composed with Shigeru Ishikawa in mind, and I conducted both works.

When composing the piece, I bought a contrabass so that I could experience its sound myself. I practiced on it for 15 to 30 minutes every day before I began composing. By doing so, I was able to gain a true grasp of the instrument’s sound.

I started composing the piece from the early spring of 2015, created the contrabass part and piano sketch in the summer, and completed the orchestra section in the fall. It is made up of three movements and is about 30 minutes long. The premiere was on October 29, 2015 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre Concert Hall, performed by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, with Shigeru Ishikawa (who holds the title of Solo Contrabass for the orchestra) playing the solo part. After that, it was performed once more and recorded at the Main Hall of the Nagano City Arts Center on July 16 and 17, 2017, by Future Orchestra Classics (FOC) with Mr. Ishikawa reprising his role as the soloist.

Movement 1: The basic motif using four notes, F#-B-E-A, dominates the whole movement. These fourth intervals are open strings of the solo contrabass (normally E-A-D-G), but they are quite difficult to play as the piece unfolds (similar to the fifth intervals for the violin). It was originally a free-form piece that started at a fast tempo, but I later composed parts at a slower tempo in the introduction and middle sections, giving the entire work a more three-dimensional feel.

Movement 2: Naturally, the beginning contrabass pizzicato is influenced by jazz. I thought this would be the best way to show off the great qualities of this instrument. Over the contrabass, motifs played by the clarinet and horn are the cornerstone of the entire performance. The music builds as the contrabass plays the same motifs but then quiets down in the middle part. Although a little complex, the movement is basically in ternary form, and the second half starts with upbeat bass runs. Personally, I have quite the fondness for this movement as I was able to compose it with the least amount of trouble.

Movement 3: This entire movement is composed with motifs using seventh intervals. I made sure to give it a scherzo-like brightness and depth as it is the final movement of the piece. This movement is closest to a minimal music methodology.

Contrabass Concerto was recorded by Universal Sigma (UMCK-1682).

Akira Nishimura and Ichiro Nodaira's Piano Concerto “Crossing A-I” (2016) was commissioned by the Suntory Foudnation for the Arts and premiered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and pianist Ichiro Nodaira conducted by Yoichi Sugiyama on October 28, 2016 at Suntory Hall. Akira Nishimura says:

"Piano Concerto "Crossing A-I" is a jointly-composed work in three movements. The method of composition entailed a 'crossing' between the creative intentions of the two composers. More specifically, the piano solo part of the first movement was composed by Nishimura, while the orchestral writing in this movement is the work of Nodaira. These respective roles were reversed in the third movement. The second movement features the solo piano throughout. It consists of twelve fragments, six created by each of the two composers, which can be played in any order as determined by the soloist.

This joint work proved to be a difficult but interesting enterprise from which I personally learned much. The solo piano part of the third movement composed by Nodaira is extremely intricate and emits a crystalline radiance. In contrast, I attempted to blend in with a malleable, fluid texture in the orchestral writing. I feel that we have ended up with unique results that combines sound images with a heterogeneous character. The ‘A-I’ in the tide refers to our two personal names, Akira and Ichiro."

Ichiro Nodaira noted:

"Akira Nishimura has said all that needs to be said about this work. Composed by Nishimura, the solo part of the first movement features a stream of energetic music which prompted me to write for the orchestra in such a way that the writing sometimes flows together with the solo part and at other times fragments it or bounces off it. In the case of the cadenza in the second movement, I wrote a series of short pieces entitled Explosion, Écart, Déduction, Stagnation-Diffusion, Imitation and Rebond in response to the six character pieces with the tides Misterioso dolcissimo, Falling, Pulses, Galaxy, Eruption and Temptation previously composed by Nishimura. I myself composed the solo part for the third movement. I wrote it after seeing what Nishimura had composed for the first movement, my aim in this case being to bring about an effective conclusion to the concerto as a whole." 


Piano Concerto "Crossing A-I"
was recorded by Camerata (CMCD-28352).

On August 15, Zen-On will publish seven additional works by Shin-Ichiro Ikebe, Michio Kitazume, Akira Nishimura,Ichiro Nodaira, Hitomi Kaneko, and Tokuhide Niimi.

Shin-Ichiro Ikebe's Elephant Rhetoric(1992) for tuba and piano was commissioned by the tuba player Hiroyuki Yasumoto who premiered the work with pianist Yuko Kusayama in 1992 in Kentucky (USA). 

Michio Kitazume's Side by Side (1989/ revised 2021) for percussion solo was premiered by Hideyuki Kuroyama on December 1, 1989 at the Toshi Center Hall in Tokyo.


(Side by Side/Michio Kitazume/Todd Meehan, percussion)

Akira Nishimura's Pundarika (2009), for percussion solo was commissioned by Shiniti Uéno who premiered the work on September 18, 2009; National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Tokyo. The composer notes:

"All the instruments used in this work for solo percussionist are made of metal: two vibraphones with different rotating speed motors (One has fast vibrato and the other has slow vibrato), tubular-bells, Chromatic-gongs with two octaves, and two antique-cymbals. The damper pedals of vibraphones and tubular-bells should be always pressed so as not to silence the resonance. The work is based on a mode which brings many consonances and produces transparent sounds. On the other hand, shadowy and cloudy atonal sounds also sometimes appear and flow, which gives the piece stagnation and chaos. However, from the murky echo, the transparent sounds come back again. Going from purity to muddiness and returning from muddiness to purification are the subject of this work. It is a kind of religious and meditative tune. The image of purification in this piece is symbolized by the title Pundarika, a flower which means pure, clean and sacred in Buddhism. Pundarikas comes into buds from muddy water, never stains with mud and blooms beautiful pure white flowers. It is the flower that can purify the human mind. This piece is dedicated to percussionist Shinichi Uéno."


(Pundarika/Akira Nishimura/Shiniti Uéno, percussion)

Ichiro Nodaira's Violin, Viola(2018) was commissioned by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. and premiered on December 14, 2018 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan at the 25th annual concert of “Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s” organized by Zen-On and performed by violinist Hiroaki Matsuno and violist Tomomi Shinozaki. Ichiro Nodaira says:

"This piece is a duet for violin and viola written from October to November 2018. In the last couple of years, I have written works for which string instruments are used: Zone impalpable pour violoncelle et piano (2016), Deux Visages: double concerto pour violon, saxophone et orchestra (2017), Motsure pour shamisen futozao et violoncelle (2018), and Shizuoka-Trilogie I pour orchestra à corde (2018). Through these works, I have developed various ideas. I used them in this piece, too, so as to create a cycle. That is, this piece is a sort of miniature of my recent works.

Two instruments move almost at the same time and the two lines are irregularly intertwined and tangled with each other. Artificial harmonics and normal tones are mixed at random and two players are to explore textures of vague and unperceivable sound. They often start with the same pitch but it gradually gets warped and transforms into layered sound. I gave special attention to tones from open strings and aimed to develop them at many points."


(Hiroaki Matsuno and Tomomi Shinozaki perform Ichiro Nodaira's Violin, Viola)

Hitomi Kaneko's Raise a song… (II)(2017) for recorder was commissioned by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. and premiered by Tosiya Suzuki on December 8, 2017 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan at the 24th annual concert of “Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s” organized by Zen-On.


(Tosiya Suzuki performs Hitomi Kaneko's Raise a song...(II))

Another work premiered at the 24th annual concert of “Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s” is Tokuhide Niimi's ETUDES FOR PIANO -questions to gods-  Book 3 (2017). The work was ommissioned by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. and performed by pianist Akira Wakabayashi. Tokuhide Niimi notes:

"VII. Is the universe composed of disconnected reverberations? (*by F. G. J. S. B. T. N.)
I sometimes think that in the empty cosmic space, there is a reverberation of something which used to be there. In this piece, a reverberation of a tone group brings about a chord, and another reverberation of the next tone group produces the next chord. Tones are born from tones, one after another, as if the cells of living organisms divide to create new cells.

VIII. Omnia Mutantur, deus quoque? (Everything flows, God, you, too?)
“Everything flows.”  I replaced the word flow as waltzen (roll around in German language), which is the origin of the term of waltz, and I connected it to a basic concept of triple strings overlapping with each other. The piece is a kind of variation consisting of 17 small and large parts.

IX. How was just before the Big-Bang?
Before the big bang, which gave birth to the universe, there is nothing and there is no time. Then what existed? Is it right to say that the world was densely filled with something?
Five (sometimes six) continuous semitones in this piece represent “density.” They variously transform as if a kaleidoscope variously changes colors and patterns with the same materials. This piece consists of seven parts.

A tone row of **BEE・S(Es)CHBE is embedded like Dépaysement.

*  F. G. J. S. B. T. N
This work is based on the theme of The Musical Offering. It is said that Friedrich Der Große gave the theme to J. S. Bach. I used it as a subject of my piece. F.G.J.S.B.T.N. is a kind of memorandum of it." 


(ETUDES FOR PIANO -questions to gods-  Book 3, VII., VIII., IX)

Tokuhide Niimi's ETUDES FOR PIANO -questions to gods-  Book 4 (2018) was commissioned by Zen-On Music Company Ltd. and premiered by pianist Akira Wakabayashi on December 14, 2018 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan at 25th annual concert of “Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s” organized by Zen-On. Tokuhide Niimi describes the piece:

"X. Does a flower know its beauty?
Complete quietness is a motto of this piece. A flower never cries out.

XI. Where does a wondering soul go after all?
This piece is based on a three-note row.

XII. What is eternity?
Does eternity exist only in our notions?

This piece is based on combinations of four notes rows and ticking repetitions of the same notes.

When I wrote ETUDES FOR PIANO - Book 4, I had come to feel that there was no need for me to stick to the concept of etude because everything could be an etude. My etude series has been completed for now with four volumes containing twelve pieces in total. But I think eventually I may want to write Book 5.

The Etudes X, XI, and XII are written as individual pieces but, at the same time, they seem to be a suite, which I aimed at half consciously and half unconsciously.

Three pieces are played attacca, without pause.
I would like to show my appreciation to Rikuya Terashima who worked on ETUDES FOR PIANO Book 4 as well as Book 2."


(Rikuya Terashima performs Tokuhide Niimi's ETUDES FOR PIANO -questions to gods-  Book 4)

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