Unique and mysterious possibilities: Mirrors by Dai Fujikura

The third disc from composer Dai Fujikura is a richly-hued portrait of the composer, focusing on four works recorded by a single orchestra. The pieces demonstrate Fujikura’s organic approach to composing, a technique in which he relies less on traditional formal precepts than on the gradual unfurling of ideas latent in an initial gesture – the pieces feel as though they are exploring possibilities offered by the first sound.


Yearning gestures blossom from a single sustained note at the start of Tocar Y Luchar, with strings rich in portamento answering static woodwind and brass. Over a gradual development, lines begin to echo one another, falling over themselves in their eagerness to articulate their ideas. A mysterious, lambent chord across the whole orchestra blossoms and slides before breaking down into restless, shifting string shapes. Woodwind like a wind-blown mobile oscillate searchingly, underpinned by rich string sonorities. The piece subsides into brittle martello writing, brought to a sudden halt by a punctuated brass chord. A ‘Rite’-esque pounding on bass-drum interrupts; the orchestra gradually recovers, finding its feet through a series of homophonic arguments between sections of the orchestra, eventually exploding in a blazing tutti chord with rumbling percussion. Now the music becomes wistful, almost reflective, subsiding in a series of languorous, rainbow-hued gestures before a short clarinet statement leads into a final chord which sees the orchestra evaporate in a glittering haze. A wonderful thirtieth-birthday present for its dedicatee, Gustavo Dudamel, the piece feels like Fujikura’s take on a concerto for orchestra, exploring the expressive possibilities in each individual section of the orchestra, where the focus is constantly shifting between them rather than giving each sustained periods of solo material. And, as elsewhere on the disc, there’s some sumptuous string writing too.


The Bassoon Concerto examines the close relationship between soloist and ensemble at an even greater level of auditory magnification than usual – the opening orchestral chord is an extension of the multiphonics created by the bassoon; the opening sonority therefore becomes, as often with Fujikura’s music, the wellspring from which subsequent material is distilled. Fujikura talks of being attracted to the bassoon’s ‘unique and mysterious possibilities’ when he began working with the soloist for whom the work was written, Pascal Gallois, who delivers the solo part with great authority; the work pushes at the limits of the instrument’s expressive potential, leaving no corner of the instrument left unexplored with high, lyrical melodic writing and low-register multiphonics.


There’s a wonderful elasticity to the cello section in Mirrors, as though the piece is exploring the flexibility of a single section of the orchestra. Surging, restless celli, shifting gestures punctuated by stabbed pizzicato – two means of articulation that are contesting for supremacy. Throbbing rising-and-falling plucked shapes vie with buzzing, vigorous tremolo. The piece eventually passes into tranquil sustained sul ponticello, harmonics-laden chords and gently evaporates with textural unity having been reached.


The final work on the disc, Atom, sees brittle textures growing out of the opening repeated note. This mood of restlessness is reflected throughout the orchestra, with various sections similarly oscillating, uncertain. When they do begin to find a measure of unity, the pieces slows into a slow-moving section bringing percussion to the fore, with timpani revellling in portamento and exotic gongs. Rasping brass and scurrying strings reply, before the whole orchestra joins for a rapturous outburst. The restlessness returns, but is soon overwhelmed by broad textural strokes which form the piece’s commanding conclusion.


The disc was recorded in a concert dedicated to Fujikura’s music in the Suntory Hall in 2012. All four works on this occasion are sumptuously performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tatsuya Shimono.


Mirrors is available on the Minabel label.

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