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Zen-On Releases Five New Publications by Toshiro Mayuzumi, Kenji Sakai and Akira Nishimura

Feb. 01, 2021

On February 15, Zen-On will release five new publications of works by Toshiro Mayuzumi, Kenji Sakai and Akira Nishimura. 

Toshiro Mayuzumi's Hors d'œuvres is an unpublished work written in 1947 when he was performing as a jazz pianist while attending the Tokyo Academy of Music.  Akio Yashiro (1929-1976), a fellow schoolmate whom Mayuzumi studied composition with and who listened to the premiere, praised the work as being “highly unexpected.” The composition is full of lively jazz rhythms and energetic musical expressions.

Hors d'œuvresconsists of two movements and can be played as a piano solo work; however, the publication is based on the autograph score from when the work was premiered with jazz drum accompaniment.  The score includes a separate drum part.  

(Toshiro Mayuzumi/Hors d'œuvres/Chiharu Wakabayashi, piano/Kazumasa Oya, drums)

Toshiro Mayuzumi's Trois pièces du ballet “KAGUYAHIME” is another previously unpublished piano work. Commissioned by Jane Barlow, a ballet instructor in postwar Japan, Toshiro Mayuzumi started to compose the work in 1984 for the ballet “Kaguyahime”. However, the production never took place.  The three pieces left as piano sketches are now published for the very first time.

The dance music is inspired by three scenes in the Japanese folklore Kaguyahime, also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where Princess Kaguya challenges three suitors with impossible tasks. This fresh, elegant work for piano was put together simply to suit performers at the intermediate level.

Kenji Sakai's Etheric Visions was created in close collaboration with guitarist Daisuke Suzuki, to whom he dedicated the work and who gave its first performance. The word etheric in the title is derived from the etheric body propounded in theosophy. The etheric body (also called the vital body) represents the body filled with aura. The composer notes, "When I listen to excellent performances of Classical music concerts, I sometimes have mysterious experiences as if the performer radiates an aura and the stage is covered by a scrim.  I wanted to write a work that induces such a state."

The entire piece is dominated by a harmonic sequence of major thirds and perfect fifths derived from special tuning for the defined musical idioms and by the mode based on the harmony. At the same time, special performance techniques combine with virtuosic writing that evoke the multiple colors of the work. From the beginning to the coda, this piece requires extraordinary focus and concentration from the guitarist.

Etheric Visions was commissioned by Zen-On Music Co., Ltd. The world premiere was performed on December 8, 2017 in the Recital Hall of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Japan, as part of “The 24th annual contemporary music concert ‘Groupe des Quatre et ses ami(e)’ ” organized by Zen-On.

(Kenji Sakai/Etheric Visions/Daisuke Suzuki, guitar)

Kenji Sakai's Wavering II for timpani solo was commissioned by Takeshi Kubota who gave the world premiere of the work on October 17, 2019 at Toyonaka Performing Arts Center Hall in Osaka, Japan.

The composer notes:
"Wavering II for the timpani was commissioned by percussionist Takeshi Kubota. While Wavering written for the shamisen (Japanese traditional three-stringed instrument) depicts the emitted sounds filling the space, the theme of Wavering II is a pulse.  The sounds of the timpani and the shamisen acoustically contain many noise elements and rich resonance. Sound is a wave caused by air vibration. The Wavering series are inspired by the sound mechanisms of each instrument that I have dealt with.

In Wavering II, which requires virtuosic technique to play, pulses sometimes expand and contract too extremely to perceive. Resonances are originally natural phenomena, but I artificially produce them by my idioms to make and develop new motifs.  In addition, using some accessories, I aimed to produce new sounds such as polyphony of metallic sounds and noises, which the instrument alone cannot make. I would say that, in works of Wavering series, the bond between music and space is stronger than that from my other works."

The work can be heard on the recording, Percussion Pieces 1 ‘...from JAPAN’ performed by Takeshi Kubota.

Finally, Akira Nishimura's Yantra for percussion ensemble is now available. Percussion Group 72 commissioned the work to commemorate their 30th anniversary, and they performed the world premiere on December 3, 2002; at Hamarikyu Asahi Hall in Tokyo.

The composer says:
"Yantra refers to the images used in meditation practices in Hindu and Jain rituals. There are many different yantras, but certain yantras of Jainism intend to represent sounds visually. In the center of such yantras, sacred sounds are visualized. The sacred sounds are said to spread infinitely in waves so as to awake the whole universe. The composition of this meditative piece was inspired by this concept of yantra, as well as by beautiful and mythic geometric patterns of “wheel of time,” the visual representations of the universe in Tibetan Buddhism. The use of many metal percussion instruments creates a colorful sonic aura similar to the images of yantras."

A recording of the work can be found on the disc, “YANTRA”- Akira Nishimura: the UNIVERSE of Percussion, performed by Shiniti Uéno & P.G.PHONIX Réflexion.

(Akira Nishimura/YANTRA)

To learn more about Toshiro Mayuzumi, Kenji Sakai, and Akira Nishimura, visit:

Toshiro Mayuzumi
Hors d'œuvres (1947)
for piano solo with optional jazz drums
1e Partie: Boogie-Woogie
2e Partie: Rumba

Trois pièces du ballet “KAGUYAHIME” (1984)
for solo piano
I. Danse du “Vase en pierre”
II. Danse du “Branche d’or”
III. Danse du “Phœnix”

Kenji Sakai
Etheric Visions (2014)
for guitar solo

Wavering II (2019)
for timpani solo

Akira Nishimura
YANTRA (2002)
for percussion ensemble