Review / 批評


生き続ける民謡 - 人々の営みの声を伝えるピアノ / 松山晋也(音楽評論家)



Review of Sumiko Sato: Parhelion―piano music inspired by Iwate folk songs / Lynette Westendorf, M.M., D.M.A.

Congratulations to pianist and composer Sumiko Sato on a brilliant new release Parhelion―piano music inspired by Iwate folk songs. Dr. Sato made the recording for solo piano at the Iwate Kenmin Kaikan Hall, Feb. 22 and 28, 2021, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The hall’s sound quality is beautifully clear and the acoustics are alive.

“Homage to Deer Dance” is a work of six movements, inspired by the rhythm and songs from Sato's transcription of the performance "The First Garden" of Hanamaki Kasuga-style deer dance. It was composed in 2016 for a concert commemorating the 120th anniversary of Kenji Miyazawa’s birth.

The six movements (Prologue, In the Moonlight, Fun Play, Journey to Repose, From Afar, and Epilogue) range from sublime simplicity to dramatic virtuosity, all developed from the opening melody of the Prologue.

Prologue opens with a beautiful simple melody that develops into rhythmic march-like energy. Ms. Sato’s control of tone at the piano is evident from the first phrase. The next movement, In the Moonlight, contains quiet and arpeggiated melodies, the repeated patterns tender without sentimentality. Fun Play is energetic and syncopated, followed by Journey to Repose, which demonstrates depth of strength in a repeated rhythmic motif, developing from the bass to the treble with clustered harmonies. Each movement is a logical transition into new compositional ideas and technique, rendered elegantly in both composition and performance by Ms. Sato.

From Afar carries a mysterious mood from a simple pattern into a dramatic chromatic shift before returning with a short coda of the initial tune. The Epilogue is a full, active and virtuosic work encompassing the entire range of the piano, demonstrating Sato’s sure mastery of the instrument. A live audience―prohibited by the Covid-19 pandemic―would have been mightily impressed.

The next set on the CD is “Variations of Nanbu Cow-herding Song,” in seven movements (Theme, Fugue (Sage), Man, Deity, Madness, Ogre, and Woman). This set of songs develops the melody of Iwate folk songs in various styles. Each title is taken from the program of Noh play; “Nanbu” is a former name of the Iwate prefecture.

The Theme is simple and short, followed by a contrapuntal development in the Fugue, performed with a vibrant sense of line and development. Man is an active and lively short movement in triple meter, very tuneful. Deity begins with a single melodic line, gradually introducing lovely harmonic details, in a gentle echo between the hands, thoughtful and delicate. Madness is active, but perhaps not quite insane. The virtuosic melody is intertwined between the hands before giving way to a set of rich chords at the end. Ogre is an energetic and dynamic movement with angular melodies and driving rhythm, but the creature is spent rather quickly in the short piece. It is playful and fun, in spite of the ominous title.

The last movement, Woman, is a thoughtful waltz, both wistful and of strong character. The recurring melody wafts into varied arrangements and leaves the listener with the lovely tune in mind. The last movement of the recording is Kuriyagawa bushi, arranged by Sato. The traditional melody is a perfect ending for this mature and dynamic recording by Sumiko Sato. Her compositional creativity combined with her ever confident and vibrant virtuosity will bring repeated joy to the listener. Her treatment of traditional melodies in a modern vernacular is brilliant.

A final word of compliment goes to the creator of the CD artwork and designer of the CD cover. It pays perfect homage to the character of the music―elegantly modern within the scope and depth of the traditional.