The piano is uniquely suited to the pointillist texture in Toru Takemitsu’s panglobal music. The Japanese composer rejected native influences early on and instead looked to the Western avant-garde for inspiration. The Tokyo-born modernist forged a characteristic style combining the impressionism of Debussy with the tonal rigors of Webern and Schoenberg in a soundscape that also owed much to the mystical naturalism of Messiaen.
Paul Crossley, a British pianist known for precise yet sensitive interpretations of the French Impressionists, brings a fine touch to the small but important catalog of Takemitsu’s solo piano works. This collection holds most (if not quite all) of the piano music stretching from the ’50s to 1992, just two years before the composer’s death.
It’s a moving and sometimes mesmerizing experience to hear altogether. “Piano Distance” (1961) is sparse and abstract, illustrating its title with an initial soft tone followed by faraway bursts before launching into solid but delicate blocks of music.
“Rain-Tree Sketch II,” his last piano work, composed in 1992, memorializes his recently deceased spiritual mentor, Messiaen. The elegiac masterpiece packs into its short span mournful tolling bells, pantonal motifs, powerful chords and a strong hint of Japanese intervals. Takemitsu had by then reconciled himself to his native music, and perhaps fate.