Hiroaki Takenouchi

Toccata in D minor, BWV913
Ballade in G minor, Op.24
Piano Sonata in G, Hob.XVI/39
6 Variations in F, Op.34
Sonata minacciosa, Op.53/2

Hiroaki Takenouchi (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 24 November, 2005
Venue: Purcell Room, London

24-year-old pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi is beginning to make a name for himself in the field of contemporary music, and seems to prefer playing Mozart concertos to those of Rachmaninov, or the music of Fauré and Delius to more conventional ‘young virtuoso’ fare. His contribution to a CD marking the 70th-birthday of Jeremy Dale Roberts [LORELT LNT118] won much praise; Takenouchi is also to record a CD of Japanese contemporary music for Lorelt in 2006. Somewhat unusually, he also writes his own programme notes and wears full tails while giving recitals!

The repertoire choice for this recital (part of the “Fresh: Young Musicians’ Platform”) was also interesting if too fragmented in terms of the mixture of form, period and feel. It was certainly let down by the inclusion of two little-known (justifiably in my opinion) works by Grieg and Medtner. Takenouchi began with the Bach Toccata. Here, the opening suffered from over-use of the loudness pedal; the ensuing left-hand chords were lumpy and also too loud. There was also a worrying uniformity in the use of the sustaining pedal whenever the tempo slowed and the dynamic level dropped, and while in the final fugue there was crispness, the phrasing was foursquare and the tonal and dynamic range too limited. This is not great Bach, and at present Takenouchi seemed to be neither interested in nor convinced by it.

Of the Grieg, little can be said. It is a set of variations on an unmemorable Norwegian folk tune and far too long. One of the variations, which conjured up an image of dancing trolls, was fun, and there was an impressive double four- and five-part octave chord passage before the expressive andante opening returned. But elsewhere the textures were massively overblown – I was reminded of a soundtrack for a silent horror film. Takenouchi did however show that he has a large range of tonal colours at his disposal; his dynamic nuances were far more natural than in the Bach, while the playing often possessed weight and sonority. The Haydn was best in the limpid slow movement, where the phrasing and speed were romantic, and in the finale where the attack was crisp; however in the first movement the sound was too hard, the phrasing somewhat brittle.

After the interval there was the wonderfully inventive Beethoven Variations that Takenouchi invested with Schumannesque fantasy via a rich tonal palette, a keen sense of rhythmic variety and a spontaneous rubato that elegantly conveyed the bagatelle-like nature of these pieces. Finally the Medtner Sonata, a 25-minute single-movement of note-spinning. Every so often there would be hints of Rachmaninov or even Beethoven, but none of the three main themes that form the backbone of the work is in any way memorable, and after about 15 minutes the will to live had slipped away. Takenouchi was nevertheless impressive, utilising a dazzling array of pianissimo colouring and dynamic effects. Perhaps later in his career he will bring a greater sense of release and fulfilment to the closing bars, but I suspect that even Richter or Gilels couldn’t have rescued this music.

Takenouchi clearly has potential, occasional (and reassuring) wrong notes aside. I would certainly like to hear him in Boulez or Schubert.

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