Western-style music existed in Japan before World War II but was not exactly common; the composer under examination here, Qunihico (or Kunihico) Hashimoto, was largely self-taught in the 1920s. In the 1930s he studied in Vienna with Egon Wellesz and briefly in Los Angeles with Arnold Schoenberg, but there is little of their influence to be heard in the music here. The Symphony No. 2 was composed in 1947 in response to a commission for a work to celebrate Japan’s new constitution, but he seems to have begun the work during the war, which would make it a very different kind of celebration. It doesn’t matter much, for the work is in the vein of Russian symphonic music of the late 19th century, with Japanese-inflected melodies substituted for the Russian ones. More effective are the Three Wasan, composed in 1948 and thus one of the last works completed by Hashimoto before his death from stomach cancer the following spring. Wasan are Buddhist chants in a fixed poetic form, and here the balance between Western orchestral song and melodic shapes of a non-Western sort is very keenly struck, with baritone Akiya Fukushima matching that balance with an unusual vocal timbre. These are wonderful short lyrical songs. The final Scherzo con sentimento is a youthful work, slight but somehow conveying the sense of discovery that must have accompanied it. The performances by the Tokyo Geidai Philharmonia under Takuo Yuasa likewise involve excitement at the rediscovery of this almost unknown music, which is of interest to those occupied with the presence of Western music in Asian countries.
Symphony NO. 2 IN F MAJOR (1947)
01 I. Allegro moderato 20:28
02 II. Finale 13:12
Three Wasan (1948)
03 No. 1. The delicate, wondrous sounds of jewel-trees in the jewel-forests 5:31
04 No. 2. Pure winds blow in the jewel-trees 4:55
05 No. 3. Shine brilliantly from within each flower 5:03
Scherzo con sentimento (1928)
06 Scherzo con sentimento 16:07
Tokyo Geidai Philharmonia
Takuo Yuasa, conductor
Akiya Fukushima, baritone
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