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Zen-On Publishes Two Works by Tokuhide Niimi

Dec. 17, 2021

Zen-On has published two works by Tokuhide NiimiSonitus Vitalis VI -Hymn-for violin solo was premiered by Reiko Watanabe on December 13, 2019 at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Small Hall at the 26th annual concert of "Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s" sponsored by Zen-On Music. The work was revised in 2020. Violinist Yu Kurokawa premiered this new version on December 20, 2021 at a recital given in the Munetsugu Hall at Toho Gakuen School of Music. Tokuhide Niimi notes:

"Sonitus Vitalis VI was commissioned for a performance at the 26th annual concert of Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)s sponsored by Zen-On and was given its magnificent and vigorous premiere on December 13, 2019 by Reiko Watanabe. However, on reflection I wasn’t entirely happy with the direction the piece had taken and decided to subject it to a drastic revision.

I completed the revised version in October 2020 and, having listened to a trial performance by Yu Kurokawa, finally felt satisfied with what I had achieved. The subtitle ‘Hymn’ is used here in the broad sense of ‘song of praise’ without any overtly religious connotation. My aim was to offer a paean to beauty in a tranquil and elevated manner through the medium of solo violin.

The piece differs from another work of mine for solo violin, Sonitus Vitalis III, in that the earlier work has a more inwardly projected character. I would be fascinated to hear the two pieces performed together on some occasion.

I had been eager to hear a concert performance of the revised version, and the opportunity finally arose when the violinist Yu Kurokawa agreed to include the work in a recital he gave in December 2021 at Toho Gakuen School of Music.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks to both Reiko Watanabe and Yu Kurokawa for premièring the work in its two incarnations."

(Reiko Watanabe performs the premiere of Tokuhide Niimi's Sonitus Vitalis VI)

Tokuhide Niimi's Lontano C. for shakuhachi and piano was commissioned by by Iino Asuka and first performed at the concert "Parfum du Futur, No. 21: New Encounters in the Blue Rose Room" at Suntory Hall in Tokyo on May 22, 2021 by Mitsuhashi Kifū (shakuhachi) and Iino Asuka (piano). Tokuhide Niimi notes:

"Lontano means ‘far’ and C. here is short for cervo, the Italian word for ‘deer’. I gave the piece this title since I had in mind the classical shakuhachi piece (honkyoku) "Shika no tōne" (Far Cries of Deer) as I composed it.

The premiere was to be given on an Érard piano without a sostenuto pedal. To take advantage of the piano’s features, the left hand constantly depresses notes on the keyboard up to rehearsal number 12, with the right hand alone actually playing. (The piece may of course be played on a modern piano, in which case the left hand may also be used.)

The piece consists of eleven sections. The ninth evokes the distant cries of deer that I heard myself during a stay at a cottage in Tateshina in Nagano Prefecture. Scientifically, these are simply the cries exchanged between male and female deer, but on an aesthetic level they have a beautifully evocative quality that explains why they have often served as a subject for Japanese poets since ancient times. (At the premiere of the work, Mitsuhashi Kifū performed this section with this very tone, being beautifully accompanied as he did so by the piano of Iino Asuka.)

It was a happy coincidence for me that the figure eleven corresponds to the number of sections in a piece wholly different in character but one for which I have enormous love and respect, namely November Steps by Takemitsu Tōru, although the treatment of the shakuhachi and the biwa in Takemitsu’s work evokes a totally different world from that of the shakuhachi and piano in my piece.

The repertoire for shakuhachi and piano is tiny, and I would be most happy therefore if this piece for shakuhachi, one of Japan’s most important traditional musical instruments, and piano, the sovereign of European musical instruments, managed to contribute to the future expansion of this repertoire.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank Iino Asuka, who provided me with the opportunity to compose this piece, and her co-performer Mitsuhashi Kifū."

To learn more about Tokuhide Niimi, visit:

Tokuhide Niimi
Sonitus Vitalis VI -Hymn- (2019, rev. 2020)
for violin and piano

Lontano C.
for shakuhachi and piano