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East and West Meet at CSO Performance

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Apr 7, 2001 - 8:00:23 PM in archives

(first published in The Cincinnati Post April 7, 2001)

The twain - east and west - met at Music Hall Friday night.

The occasion was the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra premiere of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's ''From Me Flows What You Call Time.'' Conducting was Tokyo-born guest conductor Junichi Hirokami. Soloists in the Takemitsu were the five-member percussion ensemble Nexus.

It was a happy meeting, and stoking its appeal was its visual element. Percussion were arrayed in five stations around the CSO, each manned by a Nexus player. There were gongs, tom-toms, temple bells, log drums, steel drums, two marimbas, a vibraphone, suspended cymbals, glockenspiel, even a rain stick. Hanging beneath the upper balcony were two sets of wind chimes activated by means of colored streamers leading to the stage. The players entered the hall from the rear, tapping antique cymbals.

Commissioned in 1990 for the centennial of Carnegie Hall, the work was conceived as 100 years of time flowing through it, ''as if I could hear the Hall murmuring from the numberless cracks between the layers of those years,'' Takemitsu said.

And what did it sound like in Music Hall? Ravishing, no less. Though the composer gave it evocative titles (''Curved Horizon,'' ''Life's Joys and Sorrows,'' ''Prayer''), it's best not to read too much into them.

There is a clearly recognizable five-note theme, announced with exotic inflection by principal flutist Randolph Bowman. As it unfolds, shimmering banks of percussion surround and become integrated with the orchestra, sometimes punctuated by silences or the softest tap of a gong.

You can hear echoes of French Impressionism in it (Takemitsu idolized Debussy) and parts with a cinematic ring (he wrote the scores for more than 90 films). Hirokami led with exquisite precision and insight, not relaxing his arms until the last echo of chime died away in the balcony.

Balancing the premiere was a big helping of Brahms, his ''Academic Festival Overture'' and a noble Symphony No. 1. As always with the bankable Viennese, both went over well with the crowd.

Repeat is 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall.