Akio Yashiro (1929 - 1976)

Piano Concerto (1967)(27')

The Japanese composer Akio Yashiro took composition lessons with Japan’s most celebrated composers such as Saburo Moroi and Kunihiko Hashimoto from age ten. In 1945, when he was only fifteen, Yashiro entered the Tokyo Music School (the present-day music department of the Tokyo University of the Arts), studied composition with Tomojiro Ikenouchi and Akira Ifukube; the latter became known as a composer of the Godzilla film music.

Upon finishing his graduate studies in 1949, Yashiro entered the Paris Conservatoire on a scholarship from the French government. His teachers at the Conservatoire included such distinguished figures as Nadia Boulanger, Henri Challan, and Olivier Messiaen. After finishing his studies in Paris, Yashiro returned to Tokyo and became a faculty member at his alma mater.

In the summer of 1964, Yashiro began work on the Piano Concerto, a commission from NHK, or Japan Broadcasting Corporation and finished it in the May of 1967. While working on it, the composer met Hiroko Nakamura, one of Japan’s most internationally renowned pianists. As their friendship grew, Yashiro ventured to incorporate Nakamura’s versatile and brilliant performing techniques in his piece.

Each movement of Yashiro’s concerto is based freely on classical forms. The first movement in the sonata form begins with a conversation between the mysterious piano and the softly responding brass, followed by the furious piano cadenza. This leads into the explosive reaction from the orchestra and moves the piece forward. The second movement begins with the piano, softly hitting the same pitch, C, over and over. Various instruments restate this simple but persistent motive throughout the movement. The finale, a rondo, begins with a thunderous roar on timpani and raging strings, followed by a hushed fanfare on brass. The principal character of this movement, however, comes from the energetic piano cadenza after the introductory section. Musical ideas from previous movements also appear here and there in this final movement.

[Akihiro Taniguchi]