First published in the Guardian on 3 December, 2015
The music of Toshio Hosokawa is dense and lightweight at once: music that takes itself awfully seriously, every gesture loaded with Zen concepts of breath souls or blossoming flowers, but somehow the sum of its parts never feels hugely substantial. Luckily musikFabrik isn’t an ensemble to indulge the ponderous or the self-important, and this album of Hosokawa chamber works from the past two decades is as straight and unpretentious as you’ll hear his music performed. It begins and ends with pieces from the ten-part Voyage series exploring the relationship of soloist (man) against ensemble (nature). In the eighth, Melvyn Poore rumbles, whispers and sings through his tuba; in the tenth, Tadashi Tajima’s shakuhachi flute wafts airy phrases across dank ensemble textures. There are some carefully poised songs-without-words for flute and piano (Lied) and oboe and harp (Arc Song), and the Messiaen homage Stunden-Blumen sounds inquisitive and alert under conductor Ilan Volkov.