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Zen-On Releases Four New Publications from Tomiko Kohjiba, Akira Nishimura, and Shin Sato; Akira Miyoshi's RHEOS New to Zen-On's Catalogue

Sep. 26, 2022

This month, Zen-On released four new publications by Tomiko Kojiba, Akira Nishimura, and Shin Sato:

Tomiko Kojiba's IZAIHO – Song of the NORO– for Violin and Harp was commissioned by Ayako Shinozaki and first performed on April 8, 2015 as part of Ayako Shinozaki’s 13th Solo Recital at the Chamber Music Hall in Tokyo Bunka Kaikan by Ayako Shinozaki (harp) and Yasuko Otani (violin). The composer notes, 

"Izaihō was a sacred ritual held on the island of Kudaka in Okinawa once every twelve years in the Lunar Year of the Horse. Its purpose was to hand on to the next generation the matrilineal sacerdotal institution centring on priestesses (noro) established during the age of the kingdom of Ryukyu. The participants were the female population of the island aged between thirty and forty-one, known collectively as nanchu, who, having gone through the Izaihō initiation ceremony, joined the ranks of the island’s exclusively female sacerdotal hierarchy. The women would retreat for several days into a temporary shed-like structure erected in the wooded area behind the main site of the ceremony, after which they would be joined in the performance of sacred songs and dances by the older women of Kudaka who had passed through the ritual on a previous occasion. 

The last Izaihō ceremony was held in 1978, when a thorough visual and documentary record was made of the whole event. The dances were far more varied than those performed at Shinto shrines in mainland Japan by female shrine attendants (miko), comprising many types ranging from those set in a slow tempo to fast, rhythmical dances.

This work consists of three short movements inspired by the Izaihō ceremony and the sacred songs, known as tiruru, that mark the different stages in the ceremony’s development. It begins with a magical tiruru song played by the violin. The exaltation felt by the nanchu as their initiation into the ranks of the noro gets under way is conveyed through the sound effects played by the harp. The second movement expresses the tranquillity of the sea and forest, shrouded in darkness, on Kudaka Island. The third movement begins with quaver movement in the harp’s upper register, suggesting the tick-tock of a clock and representing the flow of time now come to a halt, as if lamenting the extinction of the Izaihō ceremony. I would like to see the piece played in a magical manner with the performers directing their thoughts to the noro priestesses as they take part in the ceremony.

Izaihō was composed in 2015 in response to a commission from the harpist Ayako Shinozaki, who gave the first performance that year with the violinist Yasuko Otani. I partially revised the work for its subsequent performance in 2022 at the Takefu International Music Festival by the violin and harp duo X[iksa]."

Akira Nishimura's Song of Kalavinka, for solo violoncello, was commissioned by Tamás Varga and first performed by him on August 23, 2019 at the Music Forest International Concert Hall in Kusatsu (Gunma). Nishimura notes:

"This work for solo cello was commissioned by its dedicatee, Tamás Varga, principal cello of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and one of the leading cellists of our era. An unusual condition of the commission was that he wanted a piece lasting around ten minutes that would serve as a prelude to Kodaly’s Sonata for solo cello, a work that constitutes an important part of his solo repertoire. It should employ the same scordatura tuning as the Kodaly work, for example, with the two bottom strings lowered by a semitone from normal, resulting in the tuning B,-F#-d-a. I happily accepted the commission, having previously been highly impressed by Tamás Varga’s outstanding abilities.

Kalavinka in the title is the Sanskrit name of a mythical bird renowned for its incomparably beautiful voice, often portrayed with a human face and thought to live in the Buddhist paradise.

The work was premiered by Tamás Varga on August 23, 2019 at the Music Forest International Concert Hall in Kusatsu.

Shin Sato's Concerto per Orchestra was premiered on September 19, 1987 at Suntory Hall under the baton of the composer with Tokyo's Geidai Philharmonia Orchestra. Sato noted, "It may be said that this is a compilation of all the techniques used in my orchestral works up until then.  Here I have brought together my attempts at orchestration that I experimented with little by little since Symphony No. 1 (1961) and what I have done with the notation.

The music is comprised of a short intense opening accompanied by five fluctuating sections.  It was composed for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Tokyo University of the Arts.

Finally, Shin Sato's Sinfonia III was commissioned by the Min-On Concert Association and premiered on May 26, 1979 by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Tadaaki Otaka. 

Sato noted," This work was planned to show the classical characteristics of a symphony in each movement.  That is, the first movement would be the opening, the second movement a scherzo, the third movement a requiem and the fourth movement would be the finale.

After the premiere, I thought that the fugue in the fourth movement was coarse and forced.  So I adjusted it, presented it again and published it (the 2000 Revised Version*).  However, coarseness and forcedness are characteristics of youth.  So I have decided to leave it as it was (the original version)."

*The full score and material of the 2000 Revised Version are also available on hire.

(The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Tadaaki Otaka, performs Shin Sato's Sinfonia III)

In addition, Akira Miyoshi's RHEOS,  for orchestra has recently been added to Zen-On's rental catalogue. RHEOS was premiered on December 22, 1976 at Kyoto Kaikan by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikraus Wis.

(Rheos pour orchestre (1976)/Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra/Ryusuke Numajiri)

Tomiko Kojiba
IZAIHO – Song of the NORO–
for violin and harp
Sample pages:

Akira Nishimura
A Song of Kalavinka
for violoncello solo
Sample pages:

Shin Sato
Concerto per Orchestra
Sample pages:

Sinfonia III
Sample pages:

Akira Miyoshi
RHEOS (1976)
for orchestra