Dai Fujikura: Mirrors

, composer


Dai Fujikura's third release presents four stunning orchestral works in a vital document of the composer's sonic journey.


Dai Fujikura's third release on his Minabel imprint, Mirrors, is devoted to performances of four symphonic works that were programmed and recorded in a portrait concert of his music in his native Japan, at Tokyo's famed Suntory Hall in 2012. Performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Tatsuya Shimono and edited and mixed by Fujikura himself, this release is a unique opportunity to hear an orchestra focused exclusively on one living composer's music in versions that reflect the composer's explicit wishes for how the ensemble should be balanced and what elements are primary in the score.

"Tocar y Luchar" was written on the occasion of the 30th birthday of the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the 36th anniversary of the ground breaking Venezuelan education program, "El Sistema." Dudamel conducted the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in the work's premiere. Fujikura researched "El Sistema" while composing the piece, becoming interested in how the children in the program came from different backgrounds but acted as one entity when they worked together. As he often does in his work, Fujikura drew an analogy with a natural phenomenon, seeing the children as a "swarm," like birds or fish. Inspired by this environmental paradigm, the work flows as one large phrase that is made up of small components swarming together to form a whole.

The material from the "Bassoon Concerto" is based on music from Fujikura's solo bassoon piece, "Calling" (heard on Rebekah Heller's TUNDRA imprint release, 100 Names TUN001). The orchestra functions as a magnification of dense multiphonics on the bassoon, creating prismatic harmonies. "Mirrors", commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is written for a cello section alone. Fujikura became interested in creating a "mirror" relationship between plucked pizzicato and bowed arco sounds, and this relationship gradually distorts through the piece, creating the sonic equivalent of a "hall of mirrors." "Atom" takes a solitary repeated staccato note as its genesis, with Fujikura drawing on processes honed in the electronic music studio to guide the development of the work.

In all four works on "Mirrors", we hear Fujikura experimenting with ways of using the ensemble and of generating material. Whether he is drawing inspiration from the collective model of "El Sistema" or tinkering with the most fundamental components of sound, Dai Fujikura is constantly searching for fresh approaches to instrumental writing and formal organization, and this recording is a vital document of his journey.

All tracks produced by Dai Fujikura.
Recorded by Takeshi Muramatsu at Octavia Records Inc. /Tokyo, 2012
Assistant Engineers: Keiji Ono, Masashi Minakawa
Mixed & Digital Edited by Dai Fujikura at Minabel studio / London, 2012-2013
Mastered by Andreas Meyer of Meyer Media LLC

Dai Fujikura

Born in 1977 in Osaka Japan, Dai Fujikura was fifteen when he moved to the UK. The recipient of many composition prizes, he has received numerous international co-commissions from the Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms, Bamberg Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and more. He has been Composer-in-Residence of Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra since 2014 and held the same post at the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France in 2017/18. Dai’s first opera Solaris, co-commissioned by the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra de Lausanne and the Opéra de Lille, had its world premiere in Paris in 2015 and has since gained a worldwide reputation. A new production of Solaris was created and performed at the Theatre Augsburg in 2018, and the opera received a subsequent staging in 2020.

In 2017, Dai received the Silver Lion Award from the Venice Biennale. In the same year, he was named the Artistic Director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater’s Born Creative Festival.

In 2019, his Shamisen Concerto was premiered at Mostly Mozart festival in New York Lincoln Center and there have so far been 9 performances of this work by various orchestras.

In 2020, his fourth piano concerto Akiko’s Piano is to be premiered by Martha Argerich and Dai is currently composing his third opera, which will be revealed to the public in the same year.

His works are recorded by and released mainly on his own label Minabel Records in collaboration with SONY Music and his compositions are published by Ricordi Berlin.




Shock of the New

Unique and Mysterious Possibilities: Mirrors by Dai Fujikura

The third disc from composer Dai Fujikura is a richly-hued portrait of the composer, focusing on four works recorded by a single orchestra. The pieces demonstrate Fujikura’s organic approach to composing, a technique in which he relies less on traditional formal precepts than on the gradual unfurling of ideas latent in an initial gesture – the pieces feel as though they are exploring possibilities offered by the first sound.

Yearning gestures blossom from a single sustained note at the start of Tocar Y Luchar, with strings rich in portamento answering static woodwind and brass. Over a gradual development, lines begin to echo one another, falling over themselves in their eagerness to articulate their ideas. A mysterious, lambent chord across the whole orchestra blossoms and slides before breaking down into restless, shifting string shapes. Woodwind like a wind-blown mobile oscillate searchingly, underpinned by rich string sonorities. The piece subsides into brittle martello writing, brought to a sudden halt by a punctuated brass chord. A ‘Rite’-esque pounding on bass-drum interrupts; the orchestra gradually recovers, finding its feet through a series of homophonic arguments between sections of the orchestra, eventually exploding in a blazing tutti chord with rumbling percussion. Now the music becomes wistful, almost reflective, subsiding in a series of languorous, rainbow-hued gestures before a short clarinet statement leads into a final chord which sees the orchestra evaporate in a glittering haze. A wonderful thirtieth-birthday present for its dedicatee, Gustavo Dudamel, the piece feels like Fujikura’s take on a concerto for orchestra, exploring the expressive possibilities in each individual section of the orchestra, where the focus is constantly shifting between them rather than giving each sustained periods of solo material. And, as elsewhere on the disc, there’s some sumptuous string writing too.

The Bassoon Concerto examines the close relationship between soloist and ensemble at an even greater level of auditory magnification than usual – the opening orchestral chord is an extension of the multiphonics created by the bassoon; the opening sonority therefore becomes, as often with Fujikura’s music, the wellspring from which subsequent material is distilled. Fujikura talks of being attracted to the bassoon’s ‘unique and mysterious possibilities’ when he began working with the soloist for whom the work was written, Pascal Gallois, who delivers the solo part with great authority; the work pushes at the limits of the instrument’s expressive potential, leaving no corner of the instrument left unexplored with high, lyrical melodic writing and low-register multiphonics.

There’s a wonderful elasticity to the cello section in Mirrors, as though the piece is exploring the flexibility of a single section of the orchestra. Surging, restless celli, shifting gestures punctuated by stabbed pizzicato – two means of articulation that are contesting for supremacy. Throbbing rising-and-falling plucked shapes vie with buzzing, vigorous tremolo. The piece eventually passes into tranquil sustained sul ponticello, harmonics-laden chords and gently evaporates with textural unity having been reached.

The final work on the disc, Atom, sees brittle textures growing out of the opening repeated note. This mood of restlessness is reflected throughout the orchestra, with various sections similarly oscillating, uncertain. When they do begin to find a measure of unity, the pieces slows into a slow-moving section bringing percussion to the fore, with timpani revellling in portamento and exotic gongs. Rasping brass and scurrying strings reply, before the whole orchestra joins for a rapturous outburst. The restlessness returns, but is soon overwhelmed by broad textural strokes which form the piece’s commanding conclusion.

The disc was recorded in a concert dedicated to Fujikura’s music in the Suntory Hall in 2012. All four works on this occasion are sumptuously performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tatsuya Shimono.

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