24th April 2016
During the closing week of the Residency I was fortunate to attend a Gagaku ensemble and piano concert at the Blue Rose Hall (part of the Suntory Hall complex) given by members of Reigakusha. It was wonderful to hear Hyōjō no netori, Goshōraku-no-kyū, Etenraku and Bairo. The concert celebrated Hanamatsuri, and there were some specially commissioned works; including a new piece for Gagaku ensemble by Kazuko Narita in 9 consecutive parts, the incantation of the Pranja-paramita sutra, which began with a beautiful solo from the haisho (pan pipes) played by Reigakusha’s Yoko Iwakame.
The next morning, I met Miura-sensei’s student Haruko at the Musashino studio and we played some more Gagaku pieces for hichiriki and shō, including Taishikichō no netori followed by Batoh, Onojokyu, Hyōjō no netori and Goshōrakyu-no-kyū. In addition, Haruko showed me the stages of reed-making for the hichiriki. The reed is made from the dried stem of papyrus originating from the banks of the Yodigawa river. The stem, after maturing for at least ten years, is soaked and flattened, the surface crafted and shaped into the reed. It is all of one piece unlike the folded and divided cane of oboe and bassoon reeds. It gathers resistance with age and Haruko used very fine sand-paper to adjust its strength and responsiveness. Hichiriki reeds vary in strength according to the requirements of the player, they are slightly similar in width and shape to bassoon reeds.
In the Blue Rose Reigakusha concert the other evening, a Buddhist monk, Kazuma, had composed a virtuosic piece in homage to Buddha for hichiriki and piano. There are six movements; i) The Swan (after Saint-Saens), ii) Peacock, whose call was brilliantly imitated by the hichiriki, iii) Parrot, which involved question and then an answer, iv) Mynah Bird, v) Bird of Paradise, and finally vi) a mythical bird with 2 human faces. These were lyrical pieces, although at one point the hichiriki player soared to a top B, stratospheric and unthinkable for most players. The control and expressiveness was awe-inspiring from the Reigakusha virtuoso, Katsuhiko Tabuchi; he has my utmost admiration and respect.