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Zen-On Releases Multiple New Publications by Kenji Sakai, Takashi Yoshimatsu, Julian Yu, Soichi Konagaya, and Akira Miyoshi

Aug. 08, 2022

Zen-On Releases Multiple New Publications by Kenji Sakai, Takashi Yoshimatsu, Julian Yu, Soichi Konagaya, and Akira Miyoshi

Zen-On has released eight new publications this summer, including major works by Kenji Sakai, Takashi Yoshimatsu, Julian Yu, Soichi Konagaya, and Akira Miyoshi

Kenji Sakai's Jupiter Hallucination was commissioned by Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa which premiered the work on February 27, 2021, at Ishikawa Ongakudo (Ishikawa). The composer notes:

"I composed Jupiter Hallucination in the summer of 2021 in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic. The work directly reflects the mood of society at the time, when the future seemed opaque and chaotic.

At the time I was working on the piece I was also engaged in analyzing Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, ‘Jupiter’, and studying orchestration with the idea of incorporating the fruits of my study into it. The majestic theme of the first movement occasionally appears to doze off in the course of the work, and the so-called ‘Jupiter motif’ consisting of the notes C-D-F-E, which has appeared in works by many earlier composers, is subjected to variation. The dramaturgy of the piece wavers like a daydream rather than moving towards a clear climax. Mozart’s symphony is ‘distanced’ in a modern manner accompanied by varied tone colors.

The work ends on an unambiguous plagal cadence, intended to symbolize a prayer for peace in our time. We awake from the dream with all that remains being a resonance in C major. I composed this piece while reflecting all the time on how Mozart might have reacted if he had been able to hear it."

Sakai's Melodia Labile was given its premiere performance on August 6, 2018, at Takarazuka Vega Hall in Hyogo by Tadayoshi Kusakabe and Noritaka Ito. Sakai remarks,

"Among the works I have written hitherto, Melodia Labile is unusual for me in that it went through a particularly difficult gestation period. In the past, I might have been suspected of deliberately avoiding melody, but in this work for the first time, I strove to foreground it in my compositional style. I found it particularly challenging to create melodies in a modern style that did not come across as feeble imitations of past masters such as Schubert and Wagner.

This piece features several main melodies and disruptive motifs that are used as material for development. As the work moves forward, the delicate, brittle motifs are gradually combined into a collage, hence the title, meaning ‘unstable melody’."

Listen to a performance of Melodia Labile by Tadayoshi Kusakabe and Noritaka Ito here.

Takashi Yoshimatsu's Kamui-Chikap Symphony (Symphony No. 1), Op. 40 was commissioned by MIN-ON and premiered by the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Tadaaki Otaka on May 26, 1990 at The Symphony Hall in Osaka. Tadaaki Otaka led the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in the Tokyo premiere on June 2, 1990, at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. The composer comments on the work:

"It is said that life may flash before our eyes at death when we may observe images from lifetime as though they are projected from a magic lantern: being born, growing up in a struggle, dreaming of unattainable wishes, destroying yet creating various things, imagining the dead, and thinking of far-off, unrecoverable spring days. I feel it must be a grand yet also a humble dream at the same time.

This led me to expose my memories as the jumble of squalid noises accumulated in my head; to compose a piece from a dream: pulsing rhythms, sound of the wind, birdsongs, overtones of the stars, hymns, old piano tones, classical and contemporary music, rock, jazz, traditional Japanese music and folk music…It will be said that I attempted to create a magic lantern out of a really immature and childish human being, fitting those things together as one would assemble a jigsaw puzzle to make some polyptyque, delivering to the orchestra a succession of images in sound, and titling it “symphony”.

For this reason, this symphony resembles a human in form even though it is named after a God Bird.

The title 'Kamui-Chikap' means 'God Bird' in Ainu language. This god is the guardian and supreme god of the forest, who gazes upon the lives and deaths of human beings from the highest branches of the trees.

The first movement is Ground, created in an imperfect form and proliferated.
The second movement is Water which gently weaves ancient dreams.
The third movement is Fire that rampages and destroys.
The fourth movement is Air which remains still and thinks of mortal beings.
The fifth movement is Rainbow, an entity that is holy, spreading color and light throughout the sky."

(Sachio Fujioka conducts the BBC Philharmonic in a performance of 
Takashi Yoshimatsu's Kamui-Chikap Symphony (Symphony No. 1))

Yoshimatsu's Symphony No. 2 "At Terra", Op.43 was commissioned by the Japan Symphony Foundation and premiered in a three-movement version on May 22, 1991 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Yuzo Toyama. The four-movement version was premiered on September 9, 2002 at Suntory Hall by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sachio Fujioka. Yoshimatsu notes:

"This symphony was composed in 1991, following my first one, Kamui-Chikap Symphony (1990). The work is associated with the last element “the Earth” in a series of elements that includes: Star, Angel, Bird, Animal, Human Being, Earth…[While composing this piece] my thoughts turned to lives that were born and have died, so the piece became a sonic mural built from the four cardinal directions. 

1. Dirge - from the East. It’s a Requiem as a dark dance constructed by accumulation of Asian modes and melodies, which are floating and subdivided in a longstanding drone.
2. Scherzo - from the North. It’s a Scherzo as a dance macabreque which is heard from beyond the vast northern land: a dry hymn to the frozen darkness of night.
3. Requiem - from the West. It’s a Requiem as a liturgy in the European form of a mass for the dead: Introitus, Kyrie, Offertorium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Libera me.
4. Canticle - from the South. It’s a Requiem as imagined in a lively funeral procession in Africa"

(Keitaro Harada conducts the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in a performance of 
Takashi Yoshimatsu's Symphony No. 2 "At Terra")

Julian Yu's Moto Perpetuo by Paganini for orchestra was commissioned by the Symphony Orchestra of the National Ballet of China who premiered the work, under the baton of Zhang Yi on September 4, 2013 at National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

In addition, Julian Yu's Variations on a Theme of Paganini for flute, clarinet, and string quartet was commissioned by the Australia Ensemble with funding from the Australia Council. The Australia Ensemble premiered the work on June 1, 1996 atd the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of new South Wales (Australia). Yu notes:

"When the Australia Ensemble approached me in 1994 to write a piece for them, a record cover caught my eye which featured a “family tree” diagram showing the “offspring from Paganini’s famous Caprice no. 24 in A minor, the last of his Caprices for Solo Violin, op. 1. An astonishing number of composers had already tried their hand at this particular theme and set of variations: the classical branch alone included among others Liszt, Schumann, Brahms and Rachmaninov, while more modern composers were also numerous, including Lutoslavsky and Ichiyanagi.

Why this piece? Niccolò Paganini, a violinist and composer born in Italy in 1782, is possibly the most famous virtuoso to have performed before recorded sound, and he transformed attitudes towards what it was possible to play on the violin. His technique was such that he influenced many musicians to try and do for other instruments what he did for the violin. Much of the success of his Theme and Variations was because of the multitude of different arrangements that were made and disseminated to the enthusiastic Viennese public at the time, which enabled the piece to gain a popularity that has endured to the present day. 

I was immediately inspired to have a go myself, approaching the challenge in much the same way as a Chinese folk musician who embellishes a melody over and over again, from generation to generation, until the source becomes unrecognisable. As my starting point I chose Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini (Books I and II) - already second generation - and worked on it until it became a completely new piece. I did not strictly follow the order of the Brahms original, and there are some omissions: altogether my resultant chamber work consists of a theme and eleven variations."

Soichi Konagaya's Moment for alto saxophone, piano, and percussion was premiered by Hiroko Senoh, Yuri Kitano, Satoshi Mitsumoto, Tomomi Nozaki, and Masashi Yamagata on January 16, 2020 at the Recital Hall of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center. The composer notes:

"This piece was commissioned by saxophonist Hiroko Senoh in 2017 for her premiere performance of Moment for Alto Saxophone.  She told me she wanted to perform it as an ensemble and asked me to rearrange it, so I adapted it for that purpose.

When the performer holds the sax and plays it, the sound explodes and the world broadens out.  I call that “Moment for Alto Saxophone.”  I would like for the solo performer to imagine the breadth of each scene and play accordingly."

Akira Miyoshi's Étoiles à Cordes (Gen no Hoshitachi), for violin and string orchestra was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered on March 11, 1991 in the Orchard Hall at Bunkamura in Tokyo by Akiko Suwanai as the violin soloist with the Toho Gakuen College of Music Orchestra conducted by Ken Takaseki. The composer notes:

"This work was composed for the Toho Gakuen College of Music Orchestra following an invitation to the orchestra to appear in an event celebrating the centenary of Carnegie Hall in March 1991.

The title is in one sense a eulogy of outstanding string players, but in another sense, it refers to the image of the emergence of the universe in line with the recent ‘super string’ cosmological theory. This theory has it that, at the moment when the universe came into being, all particles were vibrations of tiny supersymmetric strings. This theory leads to the conclusion that the four forms of energy existing in the universe as it is today were at that time subsumed under a single form. At the present time, the universe comprises ten dimensions. In addition to the three dimensions of space and the dimension of time, this theory holds that these and the other six dimensions are enclosed in the ultimate world conceivable in physics of ten to the negative 33rd power.

This beautiful theory is reflected in the compositional method employed in this piece whereby all the four-dimensional structures performed are created from a single weak vibration on the stringed instruments. A sense of perspective incorporating a sonic message that is relayed to the subliminal auditory sense of behind the sounds that can actually be heard is revealed by this theory.

The work lasts around ten minutes. It is divided into four sections featuring a theme which is subject to various transformations as the work progresses.

I:   Espressivo. The string orchestra repeats a series of transformations of the descending theme, while the solo violin boosts the theme in the form of rising anacruses.
II:  Spirituel. The sudden virtuosic display by the solo violin stimulates the orchestra and hands over the theme to the orchestra.
III: Cantabile. A cadenza for the solo violin. The orchestra appears in the second half with the music gradually rising to an incandescent climax.
IV: Joyeux-Brillant. A powerful finale in which soloists emerge from within the orchestra. The music reaches a climax with a combination of transformations after which it enters a rapid coda."

(Akira Miyoshi's Étoiles à Cordes (Gen no Hoshitachi), for violin and string orchestra)

Notably, two works by Akira Miyoshi have recently been added to Zen-On's rental catalog. They include Subliminal Festa (1987) for wind orchestra, and Cross-By March(1991) for wind-brass ensemble. Subliminal Festa was commissioned by the All Japan Band Federation, All Japan Band Competition Repertoire at 1988 and premiered by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra in 1987.

(Akira Miyoshi - Subliminal Festa)

Cross-By March was commissioned by the All Japan Band Federation, All Japan Band Competition Repertoire at 1992 and premiered by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra in 1991.

(Akira Miyoshi - Cross-By March)

To learn more about Kenji Sakai, Takashi Yoshimatsu, Julian Yu, Soichi Konagaya, and Akira Miyoshi, visit: