TOKUHIDE NIIMI (b.1947): Violin Concerto No. 2 "Spira Vitalis" (Reiko Watanabe [violin], Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra; Toshiaki Umeda), Solar Wind for Orchestra, Towards the Silence for String Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 09O074
Description: Niimi is very much a modern neo-romantic composer, using his music to express emotional and philosophical ideas and bold, striking imagery. His harmonically rich vocabulary is based in tonality - most notably in the most recent piece, the concerto - his orchestration riotously colorful, his formal structures following a dramatic arc. The concerto follows the composer's conception of 'spiral form' - a kind of open-ended development of themes through variation and metamorphosis. The violin is treated with the utmost virtuosity, especially in the first movement, where it is almost constantly present - and not just present, but frenetically active, often in double-stopped textures as though determined to dominate the argument through sheer bravado. The three movements chart a kind of spiritual journey, from hectic real life with its tumultuous emotions through a tense, surreal form of dreamscape purgatory to a static, spiritually enlightened conclusion. Solar Wind takes its inspiration from the mysterious, highly energetic stream of particles emanating from the sun, that bathes the Earth and is responsible for the auroras, among other phenomena. This piece is an exercise in sonorism, with layers of vibrations and resonance unfolding in shimmering textures. Towards the Silence establishes persistent pedal points which act as anchoring centers surrounded by the brilliant flashes of illumination of dissonant, clustered chords. The piece unfolds slowly, in saturated waves of color, finally subsiding into ever more ethereal textures and finally, silence.