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Work of the week – Toshio Hosokawa: Blossoming II

Toshio Hosokawa’s orchestral work Blossoming II will be performed this week by two orchestras in four cities. As part of a short tour, the London Symphony Orchestra will perform the work under the baton of Robin Ticciati, travelling from the Austrian premiere in Vienna on 22 January via Linz on 23 January to London on 25 January. At the same time, Jun Maerkl and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will perform the work at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall on 22, 24 and 25 January.

Hosokawa’s string quartet Blossoming provides the groundwork for its successor, Blossoming II, which elaborates on the musical material and introduces new ideas. Blossoming II conjures the image of a lotus flower, slowly blooming and ascending towards the sun. The single sustained note rising out of silence in the beginning symbolizes the surface of a pond; any sounds below this note represent the world under the water, those that are higher portray the world above. Thus, a melody develops from below and rises higher and higher. A book about Buddhism and the blossoming of the lotus flower inspired this image, an important part of Japanese culture:

The deep roots of flowers in Japanese aesthetics and spirituality led me to them as the subject of this work. The flower and I are one; the blossoming of the flower represents my shedding of my skin, my self-discovery. – Toshio Hosokawa

Hosokawa intended to express a personal matter in Blossoming II: a critique of Japanese society’s great interest in Western culture that is gradually replacing its own ancient traditions. In writing his own music, Hosokawa aims to reverse this process and carve out a place for traditional Japanese aesthetics and music forms in the perception of culture in his home country.