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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Satie Remembered

Eric Satie has to be one of the most truly bizarre figures in musical history. Although he composed music, he referred to himself as a "phono metrograph", a recorder of sounds, sort of a human gramophone. Strange!

He lived a well-connected life, having close associations with Debussy, Ravel, and Saint-Saens, even though he remained rigidly outside the Establishment, his true home was the cabaret, playing and inventing "living" music.

Satie is best remembered and plundered for his short piano pieces, little sculptures in sound. Here's a page of delightful midi files, starting with the Ogives. Here.


Rise of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra

TOKYO, Japan boasts an impressive 8 Symphony Orchestras, and even for a city of 12 million culturally-aware persons, this is a fine ratio, considering that they are effectively playing "foreign" music. Tokyo being the political and fiscal hub of the nation, can command sponsorship dollars - the NHK, the national broadcaster, funds one orchestra, the Yomiuri, the national paper, owns another, and the Metropolitan, the local gov, powers a third.

The rest scrap it out for themselves, and by no means volunteer or charity cases, you can imagine the intense struggle between 5 powerhouse groups, all striving for excellence and that coveted Competitive edge.

In recent times, however, it has been the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra that has been challenging the big Three. Hubert Soudant, the dutch maestro and period expert, was appointed to a permanent post 18 months ago, and around the same time the Orchestra moved to the grand Kawasaki Hall, a specially built 2000 seat facility, which was 15 years in the construction. Newly motivated, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra has been stringing together audience and critical successes, the most recent being Mozart's "Clemency of Tito", which is actually a later work than The Magic Flute. And also helped, no doubt, by the charming good looks of Norichika, resident conductor, pictured up there on the left.

All in all, well done to the TSO, and you read more about the state of Japanese Classical affairs here.