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Scottish Ensemble - Debussy & Takemitsu - Gramophone


01 August 2016
Gramophone
Arnold Whittall

Toru Takemitsu's Nostalghia, an elegy for the great Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky, forms the memorable conclusion to this impressive new disc from the Scottish Ensemble. The more poignant for its restraint, this miniature concerto for violin and strings requires just the kind of subtly polished playing that Jonathan Morton and his team provide. The two other short movements that Takemitsu arranged from his film scores - ‘Funeral Music' and ‘Music of Training and Rest' - make a beguiling diptych, the first a deeply felt lament, the second a slice of jazzy comedy which is no less subtle in its way. Restraint and understatement are also key to a pair of arrangements of Debussy piano pieces. James Manson plays double bass and so takes special delight in the gruff opportunities available in ‘Jimbo's Lullaby', while Colin Matthews relishes the challenge of defamiliarising the pianistic standard that is ‘The Girl with the Flaxen Hair', dissolving the cool original into a warmly resonant haze (with a pair of harps joining the much-divided strings).

The most substantial piece is Jonathan Morton's arrangement of Debussy's String Quartet, increasing the number of players from four to 17 and making much of the kind of contrasts between solo and concerted playing that the original was designed to avoid. It might be even more effective to arrange the work for a more varied ensemble, including woodwind. But if it has to be strings only, it could hardly be better done, and certainly not better played or recorded than is the case here.     

 


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