KUNIKO - cantus - La Scena Musicale

Sir Thomas Beecham used to call his percussion ‘kitchen instruments' and treat the players at the back of the orchestra like household staff. Percussion has come a long way since then, both in the diversity of instruments and in force of ambition.

Kuniko Kato, a US-based Japanese virtuoso, applies her marimbas, crotales, bells and vibraphones to the works of living composers, several of whom are delight in the extra colours and dimensions she adds to their work. Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich, meticulous to a fault, assisted in the making of this album.

Reich's landmark 1985 work New York Counterpoint is shaded by Kuniko gently away from its original insistent heaviness into a sound picture that recalls Hokusa's Wave, the original cover of Debussy's La Mer, a seascape full of promise and menace. Four pieces by Pärt are imbued with a shimmer so haunting that you forget they were originally written for strings - none more so than the 1977 Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten which, no longer mourning, finds a certain celebration in a composer's life. The sound, recorded at 24-bit/192hz by Yuji Sagae and Junichiro Hayashi, is outstanding. Why can't all records sound this good?

05 September 2013