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Takemitsu: Green (November Steps 2)
Tōru Takemitsu was born in Tokyo, Japan on October 8, 1930 and and died there on February 20, 1996. He composed Green (November Steps No.2) in 1967. It runs approximately 6 minutes in performance and is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, alto flute, 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, , 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, piano, celeste, and orchestral strings.
Takemitsu’s mature creations number among the most beautiful compositions of recent decades. They earned him numerous international commissions, honorary degrees, and awards, including The Glenn Gould Prize in 1996. Those who knew him praised his warm, generous spirit and keen intelligence.
The dramatic expressionist influence of Schoenberg can be heard in his early works. It was replaced as a major influence by the delicate impressionist tints of Debussy. Traditional Japanese music also impacted his style. He composed in most major genres: orchestral works, ballets, incidental music for theatre, films and television, concertante, chamber, solo and vocal pieces. He had a marvelous flair for evocative titles: A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden; I Hear the Water Dreaming; Spirit Garden; How Slow the Wind, and many more.
In 1966, he composed his first concert work for traditional Japanese instruments: Eclipse for biwa and shakuhachi. The following year, he was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to write a piece for its one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary. He turned to the same two instruments and produced a sort of double concerto: November Steps.
During the same period, he composed another commissioned work, this one for NHK, Japan’s national broadcasting system. He called it Green (November Steps II). He stated that during the composition of Green, he steeped himself “in the sound-colour world of the orchestral music of Claude Debussy.” He took the scores of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and Jeux, to the mountain villa where he composed November Steps and Green.
He stated that Green was best heard in a contemplative frame of mind. “To begin with, you must listen with perfect concentration and open your ears wide for what you are hearing. Very soon you will comprehend the intentions of the sounds themselves.” This is an exotic, piquantly scored piece, mostly quiet yet alive with activity and dotted with louder outbursts of dazzling colour.
Programme Note by Don Anderson
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