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The Art of the Koto, Vol. 2: From Yatsuhashi to Miyagi

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Album Review

One of the best known of the Japanese instruments, the koto is a kind of long zither with movable bridges offering different tunings, and its history stretches over 12 centuries. To master it is a long and complex task, but Nanae Yoshimura obviously has the talent. In this volume she tackles pieces from the core classical repertoire for the instrument, covering the period between two great koto masters, Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614-1685) and Miyagi Michio (1894-1956). There's real richness in the material, with "Kaede-No-Hana" a particular standout with its peculiar changes and frequent, rippling lines that cascade and tumble delightfully. It's also especially exacting, demanding two players, one for the high part and singing (in this case Yoshimura) and another for the low part (Fukami Satomi). The shamisen and shakahuchi also feature on the disc, especially on "Onoe-No-Matsu," where its clipped tones form an interesting contrast to the more regal koto to create a textured whole. The six pieces form an overview, if not a truly comprehensive look at an important part of the music for the koto, especially as it comes into modern times, and the ideas expand while still remaining rooted in history. In that regard, "Onoe-No-Matsu" is perhaps the most interesting composition here, daring yet seductive, as the instruments dance around each other in the compelling middle section while "Seoto" flirts with Western ideas and atonality. For those who've merely heard the koto as the glassy tinkling in Japanese films, this forms a fuller picture of the instrument's history and possibilities.

The Art of the Koto, Vol. 2: From Yatsuhashi to Miyagi, Nanae Yoshimura
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  • $18.99
  • Genres: Japan, Music, World
  • Released: 01 January 2001

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