Reiko Yamada – Ritmica Ostinata

      2 Comments on Reiko Yamada – Ritmica Ostinata

Released: February 8, 2021

Akira Ifukube is best known for composing the scores for Godzilla movies. Of course, I only know this, because I googled him, being unfamiliar with his work prior to Reilo Yamada’s recent recording of his Ritmica Ostinata. It’s interesting, because nothing about this composition made me think of old Japanese horror films known more for bad special effects and bad English dubbing than for their art in any capacity.

Instead, while listing to Ritmica Ostinata, I thought more of how Stravinsky’s neo-classicism looked simultaneously forward and backward and how Béla Bartók brought his country’s folk music into the 20th Century avant-garde. Ifukube’s composition has the grand movement of the Western Classical and Romantic movements, while incorporating Eastern elements so naturally that it makes the chronological and geographical distance between those traditions as nothing.

Interestingly, Reiko Yamada, who studied under Ifukube before his death in 2006, chooses to record two very different Ifukube arrangements of this one composition. It’s a shame that the second, for two pianos, performed by Yamada and Patrick Godon, was not the first track. It’s compelling enough and Godon fills the space of the orchestra incredibly well for a single player, but it loses quite a bit of it’s luster coming second. The arrangement for piano and orchestra, played by Yamada and the Tochigi-ken Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Masaaki Hayakawa is almost impossible to follow. It is a live recording, but does what so few live recordings ever accomplish: It brings the listener into the symphony hall itself. When I think if the truly great live records across any genre, so few accomplish this.

If you think classical music is for old, stuffy people who want to hear Bach, Mozart and Beethoven played with no deviation, Ifukube and Yamada should convince you otherwise. If you think modern classical music is messy and dissonant, they should convince you otherwise as well.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

2 thoughts on “Reiko Yamada – Ritmica Ostinata

  1. Chuck

    This is a reminder that artists who are recognized primarily for their commercial work are often incredibly talented artists who got pigeonholed and/or defined by one portion of their work/career.

    I’ve never heard of Akira Ifukube but this piece of work is amazing. At times it reminds me of some of the classic American composers like Copland or Ives whose work was so important in shaping the musical sound of this country. Yet it is nothing like that either.

    You’re right, the first piece brings you into the concert hall. It’s a truly intense recording of a powerful piece of music. I get your point about the sequencing, but the drama of the symphonic version shines when it’s the first thing you hear.

    The structure of the piece is easier for me to follow in the piano version. At times, the chords and melodies make me think of “Forbidden Colors” by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, which of course makes me wonder if this influenced them or if I’m simply hearing things that aren’t there.

    1. bobvinyl Post author

      Copland and Ives make sense, because they brought things that were distinctly American into the mainstream of classical music and that is what Ifukube does with Japanese music here. There are a lot of good examples of folk music or local music making its way into what always seems like the more refined classical platform.


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