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Work of the Week – Toru Takemitsu: Nostalghia

Toru Takemitsu’s Nostalghia for violin and orchestra will be performed on 13 September in the Martinskirche in Basel, and on 14 September in St. Peter’s Church in Zurich, by violinist Ilya Gringolts and the I Tempi chamber orchestra conducted by Gevorg Gharabekyan.

Composed in 1987 for Yehudi Menuhin, Nostalghia draws inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 film of the same name, and its central theme of homesickness. While the word nostalgia refers to desire for a time since past, in both Russian and Italian nostalghia means to acutely miss a place or a person.

Nostalghia – “In Memory of Andrei Tarkovsky”

Takemitsu was attracted to the quiet camera work, sparing use of music, and tendency for long uncut scenes in Tarkovsky’s film, and after the filmmaker’s death in 1986 he dedicated Nostalghia to Tarkovsky’s memory. After a brief introduction, a simple solo violin melody dominates the composition, seeking to evoke a sense of memory, loss and longing. Maintaining the contrasts characteristically found in Tarkovsky’s films, Takemitsu uses a divided string orchestra beneath the violin to musically represent the differing states of water and fog. At the work’s end, the orchestral groups divide again into polyphony, while the solo violin remains in the highest heights.

I would like to follow both Japanese tradition and Western innovation, and to maintain both musical styles simultaneously has become the core focus of my compositional operations. It is a contradiction I do not want to solve – on the contrary, I want the two styles to combat each other. I want to achieve a sound that is as intense as the silence. – Toru Takemitsu

The same concert will also feature Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre for solo violin and string orchestra. On 14 and 15 September, the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi will play Takemitsu’s A Way a Lone II arranged for string quartet and How Slow the Wind for orchestra in the Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Also on 15 September, the Tokyo Sinfonietta conducted by Yasuaki Itakura will perform Rain Coming in the Supporo Concert Hall Kitara in Hokkaido. On 16 September, Pirmin Grehl plays Itinerant for flute at the Schumann Festival in Leipzig, and a day later the Philharmonic State Orchestra Mainz performs Night Signal at the theatre festival Mainz, conducted by Hermann Bäumer.