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IX-IANNIS XENAKIS REVIEW

2015年4月20日、英リンレコーズよりグローバルリリースされたアルバム「IX – IANNIS XENAKIS」へのリビュー。各国より高い評価を受け、仏CIX (CENTRE IANNIS XENAKIS) のオフィシャル・アーカイブ作品に認定されました。

BR Klassik Review

02 June 2015
BR Klassik ‚,Leporello‘‘

Der griechische Komponist Iannis Xenakis hat einige der wichtigsten Schlagzeug-Werke des 20. Jahrhunderts geschrieben. Zwei davon hat die japanische Perkussionistin Kuniko Kato, die sich einfach “Kuniko” nennt, jetzt für das schottische Label Linn Records eingespielt.

Wie klingt es, das Funkeln einiger hell leuchtender Sterne am Nachthimmel? “Pléïades” – so heißt eine Komposition von Iannis Xenakis – Plejaden, das ist eine Sternformation, ein Teil der Milchstraße. Iannis Xenakis hat einen Satz seines Werks für ein Instrument geschrieben, das er “Sixxen” genant hat. Er hat dieses spezielle Metall-Glockenspiel für seine “Pléïades” eigens erfunden. Es ist nicht in konventionellen Halb- oder Ganztonschritten gestimmt, sondern in kleineren, sogenannten Mikrotonalen-Abständen, Viertel- und Drittel-Tönen. “Sixxen” – Xen, die zweite Silbe steht für Xenakis. Six steht für die sechs Spieler, die hier spielen sollen. Eigentlich.

Mehr als Spektakel

Die japanische Perkussionistin Kuniko hat sich das wahnsinnig schwierige Stück allein vorgenommen. Sie hat alle sechs Parts nacheinander eingespielt, im Studio wurde dann alles zusammengefügt und auf dieser SACD klanglich perfekt konserviert. Man kann sich im Internet ein Video anschauen, wie sechs wie geklont wirkende Kunikos einen Satz aus den “Pléïades” spielen. Eine Kunst-Performance. Das Ganze ist aber viel mehr als Spektakel: Denn Kuniko hat ihre eigene Sprache, und von der wird hier jede der sechs Stimmen getragen. Kuniko ist eine Tänzerin an ihren Perkussionsinstrumenten – man spürt ihre Körperspannung zwischen den Tönen, man fühlt, wie sie im Raum nach den einzelnen Klängen greift. Jede Bewegung ist genau bemessen, und so arbeitet sie mit jedem Takt die Schönheit der Musik des großen Klang-Architekten Xenakis heraus. Egal ob an konventionellen Stabspielen, speziellen Metallinstrumenten oder an den Trommeln. Hier entstehen wunderbare akustische Skulpturen – als würden sich im Sternenhimmel dreidimensionale Figuren bilden. Die können sich zart umfließen oder: Die Muskeln spielen lassen. Xenakis habe die “Pléïades” als Musik für eine Tanz-Performance angelegt, diesen Aspekt betont Kuniko in ihren Booklet-Anmerkungen. Und dass sie das im Kopf hatte, das hört man ihrer Interpretation deutlich an.

Klarheit und Präzision

Kraftvolles Trommelfeuerwerk gibt’s auch – aber eine Ebene großer Klarheit und Präzision verlässt Kuniko nie. Mit “Rebonds” präsentiert Kuniko auf dieser CD auch Xenakis größten Perkussions-Hit, ein Stück für einen Schlagzeug-Solisten. Im ersten Teil bilden sich langsam polyrhytmische Strukturen, das heißt, unterschiedliche rhythmische Figuren werden gegeneinander gestellt, was ein bisschen wie ein Stolpern im Takt klingt. Kuniko greift so geschickt die von Xenakis vorgegebene Phrasierung auf, dass die Musik zu pulsieren beginnt, atmet. Den vermeintlich so kalten Trommelklängen so viel Leben einzuhauchen, das ist große Kunst.


 

山之内正氏対談(オーディオアクセサリー157号)

 

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LIVE REPORT FROM JAZZ TOKYO #815

2015年5月2日 神奈川県立相模湖交流センター(神奈川県相模原市 )
Reported by 多田雅範 (Masanori Tada)

21世紀を拓くパーカッション体験。

ついに加藤訓子を体験した。2011年だった、たしか吉祥寺のサウンドカフェ・ズミでECMイベントを終えてのアフターアワーズで、信頼する耳の友人が「ちょっと、これを観てください」とプロジェクタに映したのがプレイズ・スティーブ・ライヒのライブ映像だった。これはCDではなくライブのほうだなと直感、それから春日部の公演チケットを予約しては行けなかったり、すっぽかしているうちに現代ジャズシーンのほうに耳が集中したりと。4年経ってた。

相模湖でクセナキスを演るという。クセナキスを?

会場に入ると、左手にリン・スピーカーの視聴スペースになっていて、クセナキスの作品が流れている。やっぱり、いい音だ、リンのスピーカー。壁の両側には、クセナキスの作品を収録したLPレコードが30枚くらい並んでいる。おれが持っているクセナキスのレコードは3枚あった、懐かしい。うわあ、70年代の時代精神が溢れている。前衛がとっても輝いていたあの頃。いや、60年代のことかな、50年代のことかな、科学と未来が輝いていた時代にしか鳴らない音楽。

LPレコードを聴きながら、もう、これと同質な演奏は再現することはできないのだな、と、感じた。今のひとが演奏すると今の身体のひとの音楽になってしまうだろう。

クセナキスのLPはリン・ジャパンの古川雅紀さんのものかな。LPレコードを聴いて、反対側のコンサートホールに向かう。入ると、フラットな板張りに打楽器セットが置かれ、6つのスピーカーに囲まれている。

上方に幅1.5mほどの白い横断幕。タイトルが映し出されている。半透明なので後方の暗がりにも映像が透けて、二重の視覚になる。

クールだ。なぜにか、フロアに裸足になって鑑賞体勢になっている自分がいる。

加藤訓子が登場し、作品の紹介。コンサートが始まると、加藤訓子は引っ込んで映像が続く。

6人のパーカッショニストで演る楽章を、全部加藤訓子が演奏して重ね録音している。映像も、合成されて6人の加藤訓子が躍動している。

ううう。楽しい!クセナキスって、こんなにポップだっけ?ディズニーランドのアトラクションのひとつにこのまま出てきてもおかしくないくらいだ。映像だけでも大満足なくらいだけど、最後の楽章は、本人が出てきてライブ演奏。

ジスイズポップ!この躍動。

ゲンダイオンガクから開放された21世紀の表現になっている。やがてプロジェクトXにもなって、プロフェッショナル仕事の流儀にもなって、ようこそ先輩にもなって、ファミリーヒストリーにもなるはずだ。

昔、クセナキスの作品に感じた、サウンドの向こう側にジャンプするための、数学を応用しているという手がかりや、出てきたサウンドはクセナキスの意図の範囲内にあるだろうかという手探り、それら壮大な手の届かないところに意識を集中させることで襲われることとなるデモーニッシュな体験、は、あれは、時代のものだったのだ。

(もしかしたら、今もデモーニッシュなゲンダイオンガクはどこかに生きているかもしれない。生きていてほしいとは思っている)

加藤訓子はライヒ、ペルト、クセナキスと取り組んできている。ライヒもペルトも、ECMアイヒャーによって見出され、それぞれにゲンダイオンガクの風景を一変させた作曲家だ。一変させたくらいだから、クセナキスは古いほうのゲンダイオンガクのアイコンだ。ライヒも、ペルトも、クセナキスも、同じ躍動に濾過されている。ECMのコリア=バートンを聴いたのだろうか、ジャズのヴィブラフォン奏者浜田均に師事したことがあるという。加藤訓子の躍動するマレットさばきと、地続きの感覚だ、とても納得できる。

新しい体験を滋養にして育った奏者が、70年代の演奏をできる道理も必然もない。必ず、新しい表現になる。

加藤訓子の演奏身体には、ヨーロッパ人が演っている感触は無い。音楽大学でクラシックの鍛錬をした痕跡が消えている。鍛錬を突き抜けた場所、群を抜いている、いろいろパーカッショニストを捜索してみるが、ううむ、ゲイリー・バートンのマレットさばきと大相撲夏場所の寄せ太鼓・一番太鼓を足した方角を指さすとも、言えるか。

この表現はクセナキスではない、加藤訓子だ。と、口をついて出たけれど、クセナキスでないとは言えないだろ、これもまたクセナキスなのだろ、と自分に反論している。これは加藤訓子だけが可能な身体表現だ。20世紀の判断基準が効かなくて、強くて新しい。欧米のクリティークで、より絶賛度が高いことだろう。

加藤訓子とリン・ジャパン古川雅紀のタッグが、塗り替えたのだ。

(多田雅範)

http://www.jazztokyo.com/live_report/report815.html


多田雅範 Masanori Tada / Niseko-Rossy Pi-Pikoe。

1961年、北海道の炭鉱の町に生まれる。東京学芸大学数学科卒。元ECMファンクラブ会長。音楽誌『Out There』の編集に携わる。音楽サイトmusicircusを堀内宏公と主宰。音楽日記Niseko-Rossy Pi-Pikoe Review。

PDF download – LIVE REPORT JAZZTOKYO 815

LIVE REPORT FROM JAZZ TOKYO #816

2015年5月1日 神奈川県立相模湖交流センター(神奈川県相模原市 ) Reported by 藤原 聡  (Satoshi Fujiwara) 知人に車を出してもらって京王多摩センターから中央自動車道で約50分(意外に近い)。相模湖の文字通り「ほとり」にある相模湖交流センターにてパーカッショニスト加藤訓子がクセナキスの『プレイアデス』と『ルボンa.b.』をやるというのでやって参りました。 会場のある相模湖交流センターは、外見は何の変哲もないこじんまりとした町役場、といった風情。開演よりかなり前に到着、あらかじめ電話にて予約しておいたチケットを窓口で受け取って左手に進むと、ギャラリーもしくはミーティングルーム的な部屋があり、そこにはマリンバ、シロフォン、ヴィブラフォン、さらにはクセナキスが『プレイアデス』のために考案した楽器「ジクセン」もある(最初はここで演奏するのか? と訝った)。壁やテーブルにはかなりレアと思われるクセナキスの様々なLPレコードやCDも展示されている(筆者も所有しているアイテムがかなりありました)。最も奥にはLINNのオーディオ装置もセッティング(音は聴いていません)。この部屋には加藤訓子ご本人もいらして関係者の方と談笑されている。 しばらく見て回った後に一旦センターを離れる。外で食事と散歩の後開場時刻に舞い戻ってみると、演奏会場は同じ建物の別の場所であった(一安心)。こちらがホールである。相当に暗い会場の中、中央天井からスクリーンが張られ、そこには<PROJECT IX XENAKIS>の文字が投影されているが、これは背後の壁面にも透かされて写っており、つまり二重になっている。会場中央には縦に細長いスピーカーが6本セッティングされており、それが取り囲むように様々なパーカッションが設置されている。 事前のチラシや案内には、6人のパーカッション奏者が必要な『プレイアデス』をどういった形態で聴かせるのかの記載が全くない。加藤がどれかのパートを演奏し、残りは同じ会場でレコーディングされてLINNレーベルより発売されている同曲のマスター音源を会場に流すのだろうか、などと考えている中に加藤が登場。少し「前説」を行なった後に一旦退場されたのだが、改めて出て来るのだろうかと思っていると前述のスピーカーから凄まじく高音質の『プレイアデス』が流れ出す。つまりは、加藤が演奏した録音をそれぞれ6本のスピーカーから再生し、そこにサウンドインスタレーションと称してアブストラクトなデザインの模様、または合成された6人の加藤の映像が流されるという趣向だった訳だ。その度肝を抜かれるような、体ごと音圧で吹っ飛ばされそうになるような凄まじい音響は、もはや聴くものではなくてその場で「体感」するものとしか言いようがない。微妙に音程や音色の違った楽器が組み合わされることにより、単体としてはそれなりに耳馴染みがあると思っていたそれぞれの楽器が何とも形容し難い不可思議な音響世界を現出させる。このような音は聴いたためしがない。かてて加えてリズムの嵐。最初こそは「プレイアデスでは加藤さん出ないの?」などと考えていた筆者は曲が進むにつれてそんな考えは木っ端微塵に粉砕させられていた。思えばこのような最高の音響条件で『プレイアデス』を再生することなんぞ出来はしまい。その意味からもこれは唯一無二の体験であった。 しかし、真の驚きはその後の「ナマ加藤」にあった。『ルボンa.b.』の実演。あれだけ凄まじい音響だと思われた『プレイアデス』も、加藤のナマ演奏の迫力には及ばない。音の深みと空気を切り裂くような、五臓六腑に染み渡るような実在感は圧倒的の一語。その正確さにも唖然(曲を知っている・知らないの話ではない。真剣に聴けば誰でもこの恐るべき正確さは理解できてしまう)。勿論高尚な音楽理論や複雑極まりないリズムの変化を駆使して記載されているスコアではあるだろう。非・専門家である筆者などには詳しいことは分らない。しかし、クセナキスの音楽には原初的な興奮がある。これは、例えばあの『ノモス・ガンマ』(先日井上道義&新日本フィルで接した実演!)や『ヘルマ』、『シナファイ』などにも通じる独特の呪術的な何物かだ。それは録音でも知ることはできるが、知るのではなくて「体感」しなくてはならない。 それにしても、パーカッションのみで何という豊饒な世界を構築し得たのだろうか、作ったクセナキスも、そして人間業とは思えない正確さ、力強さ、それと矛盾するようだがまるで力みがなくしなやかとすら形容できる演奏を披露した加藤訓子も。筆者は加藤さんの実演は今回が初でしたが、皆さんも是非実演で加藤の演奏に接してみて下さい。 http://www.jazztokyo.com/live_report/report816.html


藤原聡 Satoshi Fujiwara 代官山蔦屋書店の音楽フロアにて主にクラシックCDの仕入れ、販促を担当。クラシック以外ではジャズとボサノヴァを好む。音楽以外では映画、読書、アート全般が好物。休日は可能な限りコンサート、ライヴ、映画館や美術館通いにいそしむ日々。 PDF download –  LIVE REPORT JAZZTOKYO 816

All About Jazz Review

06 April 2015
All About Jazz by C. Michael Bailey

Sound is elemental. It is why the heartrate, composed of many individual heartbeats in succession is called a vital sign. Percussionist Kuniko understands this in an explicit and integral manner. Her previous recordings, Kuniko Plays Reich (Linn Records, 2012) and Cantus (Linn Records, 2013) were devoted to her command of the vibraphone and marimba. Xenakis: IX broadly expands her use of percussion methods, liberating her talent dramatically. In other words, Kuniko mixes things up…like a wild, precisely structured, aural martini, dry.

Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is the other looming presence on this disc. A Greek-French composer well known for his percussion compositions, Xenakis was not only a music theoretician, but also an architect-engineer. He brought both streams of thought together in mathematical models he used in his composition. Xenakis’ pieces are studies in contrast and binary color pitting different instruments against one another. The result is an entropic precision, a creative tension that is both naturally static and dramatic. Kuniko deftly mixes her percussion instruments both vertically polyrhythmic and horizontally expansive. Her use of differing timbre and volume adds a tactile feature to the performances that is very effective. Kuniko’s performances are celebratory.


Gramophone Review

01 June 2015
Gramophone, Jed Distler

The acclaimed percussion virtuoso Kuniko goes it alone, so to speak, in an impressive multitracked performance of Xenakis’s four-movement, 40-minute 1975 percussion ensemble work Pleïades. Although Kuniko calibrates balances, dynamics, nuances and sonorities with her expected precision, she also creates a genuine sense of repartee between the parts, as if the six original percussionists were interacting. The subtle contrast between the third movement’s resonating and non-resonating mallet instruments is particularly telling, as are the sounds of the different-size drum heads throughout the fourth movement. Reviewing the recording by Les Percussions de Strasbourg (Denon, 1/90), Arnold Whittall wrote that ‘each movement is too long to sustain unflagging interest in what is essentially a music of rhythm and colour rather than, in the widest sense, of ideas,’ and I have to agree with his assessment.

These words also apply to Rebonds for solo percussion, although there are many striking moments (pun intended!) such as Part A’s asymmetrical flourishes. Mastering the composer’s complex and multi-level rhythmic notation and pinpoint dynamic indications may well represent a kind of rite of passage to percussion virtuosos. Kuniko passes this rite triumphantly. Her effortless, glitch-free technique and ability to manipulate mallets and sticks to seemingly coax melodies from non-melodic instruments are bound to humble aspiring and established percussionists alike. Her clear, descriptive and often personalised annotations refreshingly contrast to Xenakis’s convoluted and rather off-putting programme note for Pleïades.


 

Audiophile Audition Review

08 June 2015
Audiophile Audition by John Sunier

The most amazing thing about kuniko and her espousal of avant-garde percussion in her many recordings are the videos available on YouTube in which she first plays the first three-and-one-half minutes ofthe second Reich work on the first SACD and then the tour de force of her duplicating not only the music parts of the complete fourth movement of Xenakis’ Pléïades (Peaux, which translates as skins), but also herself (visually) times six, playing the various tympani and other percussion.

kuniko is widely recognized as one of the most gifted and important percussionists in the world today. She studied under renowned marimba legend Keiko Abe and works today with composers and performers thruout the world in expanding the percussion repertory and its appreciation. The first SACD, which was actually Linn’s best-seller of 2011, features three arrangements of earlier Steve Reich works, and she worked closely with the composer on all three. On Vermount Counterpoint guitarist Pat Metheny also advised, since he performed the premiere of the work in 1987.

In the Six Marimbas Counterpoint keniko plays solo marimba along with a specially-prerecorded tape of the other five marimbas. There are a dozen overlapping tracks to go with the live performance, and all worked hard on achieving the perfect surround and stereo mixes of the work. In fact, all three works have a pre-recorded tape played together with the live performances.

Other reviews of the album have not been entirely positive; some object to the changes from the sounds of the electric guitar or clarinet to the marimba or steel pans. Reich is not one of my personal favorites (except for his Music for 18 Musicians) due to his total embrace of the strongest minimalism of any living composer. However, with kuniko’s very precise technique and expressive performances, she has won me over with these Reich works, especially when accompanied by the visuals. No wonder it was the label’s best-seller.

The new Xenakis SACD requires even more of a leap to appreciate. Neither of these contain music for everybody, just those who may want to expand their musical taste. The Greek composer-architect-mathematician (who died in 2001) pioneered works full of unusual notation and requiring virtuosic performances – some of them deemed actually unplayable. The big work here is his Pléïades, which is in four movements: Mixtures, Metals, Keyboards and Skins. In addition to the steel drums, vibes and marimba in this arrangement of the work, it requires the SIXXEN, which was designed by Xenakis himself and customised by kuniko, with 120 metal bars which are struck. The whole piece is a quite different sound world of great color and fantastic rhythmic complexities.

The profound musical intelligence of both Xenakis and kuniko come thru in this wild percussive work, but it will be slow going for many listeners. Watch the YouTube video of the last movement first; perhaps for some that will be all they will care to see, in spite of the other three movements not being shown, and the streaming sonics of course are nowhere near the 192K/24-bit of the carefully-engineered surround SACD.


Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

27 May 2015
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review by Grego Applegate Edwards

The music of Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is like no other. The fact that he used computer algorithms to aid in composition has sometimes led people to misunderstand his centrality in the creative process. He did not simply push a button and out popped the music. The conception and ultimate results were his. Otherwise they would not so consistently embody his signature stylistic universe.

The formidable percussionist Kuniko gives us two major examples of Xenakis’s works for percussion on the album entitled IX Kuniko (Linn CDK 492), which is a hybrid CD capable of multi-channel playing as a SACD or standard two-channel playback on a standard CD player. I was unable to audit the multi-channel version because I do not have SACD capability, but the sound in any event is glowing.

The four movement Pleiades (1978) begins the program. It is scored for six percussionists and so Kuniko resorts to multi-tracking to realize the work. Each movement occupies its own sound universe. The specially designed SIXXEN is featured prominently in the second movement. It is a bell-chime like multi-piece percussion instrument that gives out with a special evocative resonance. The other movements have a broad array of instruments both pitched and unpitched. Kuniko’s performance is unparalleled, as is the work.

“Rebonds” (1988), a somewhat shorter two-movement work concludes the program. It is designed and played for a solo percussionist using a set ensemble of percussion instruments, mostly “drums” and a set of wood blocks. It is extraordinarily difficult to play and Kuniko most certainly triumphs here. The complexities and sheer aural delight will quicken the pulse of any percussion music adept, but it makes for a wonderful music listening experience in any case.

Some of Xenakis’s music demands much of the listener, especially in the days when extreme modernism was not always welcomed by the typical classical listener. Times have gone by and his most difficult works no longer sound nearly as challenging now to our ears. We have all grown in our ability to hear and understand complexities and the new language of modern music. But in any event the percussion works here and their marvelous performances by Kuniko can be readily appreciated, I would think, by anyone who is open to the new. They are not difficult listening, quite the contrary.

Some amazing percussion music can be heard on this one. Bravo Ms. Kuniko. Bravo Xenakis!


Crescendo Magazine Review

18 May 2015
Crescendo Magazine by Jean-Baptiste Baronian

La Japonaise Kuniko Kato, qui se fait appeler Kuniko tout court, est sans conteste une des grandes percussionnistes actuelles, et on ne compte plus sesperformances et ses créations aux quatre coins du monde (elle s’est produite avec l’ensemble belge ICTUS). Après avoir joué avec succès des œuvres de James Wood (dont l’étonnant Concerto pour marimba à Londres, en 1997), de Toru Takemitsu ou encore de Steve Reich, elle s’attaque aujourd’hui à deux pièces importantes de Iannis Xenakis, Pléiades et Rebonds, composées respectivement en 1978 et 1988. Lors de sa première exécution par les Percussions de Strasbourg en 1979, au Festival de Lille, Pléiades devait enthousiasmer pas mal de mélomanes, le critique français Maurice Fleuret allant jusqu’à écrire que cette œuvre entrait « dans l’histoire » [sic], au même titrePersephassa, écrite pour percussions dix ans auparavant. Divisée en quatre parties (« Mélanges », « Métaux », « Claviers » et « Peaux »), Pléiades est un bon exemple de l’esthétique de Iannis Xenakis – un art antiacadémique et, comme l’a souligné Roland de Candé, « absolument préservé des règles d’école, puisque ce qui lui tient lieu de thèmes, ce sont des modèles mathématiques ». Dans les années 1970, cette esthétique, ou cette absence d’esthétique, a souvent choqué les amateurs, mais avec le recul, elle paraît somme toute assez sage et ne frappe que si ses interprètes, solistes ou orchestres, ne réussissent à l’intégrer à leur propre discours. C’est heureusement le cas ici. Avec son jeu éblouissant, Kuniko arrive même à tempérer l’impression de lassitude que donnent certains passages de Pléiades. Impression qu’on n’éprouve guère à l’écoute les deux mouvements de Rebonds, sans doute parce que cette œuvre-ci ne dure que quinze minutes, alors que Pléiades dépasse les trois quarts d’heure.


The Sunday Times Review

03 May 2015
The Sunday Times by Stephen Pettitt

The Japanese known only by a single name offers two long-established Xenakis masterpieces. Those who already know Pleiades (1978) will wonder how, since these four movements (three of them for particular timbre groups) are intended for an ensemble of six. The answer? Multitracking. No need for such ingenuity in Rebonds (1987-89). These are meticulous and muscular performances, at once elemental and elegant. Brilliant.


The Guardian Review

23 April 2015
The Guardian by Kate Molleson

Whether architects like it or not, buildings will be scruffed up by the humans who use them. The same goes for music, and Iannis Xenakis – architect as well as supremely mathematical composer – loved the unruly energy whipped up by what he called “faithfulness, pseudo-faithfulness and unfaithfulness” in rhythm. He wrote for percussion in a way that demands near mechanical perfection, but it’s that “near” that’s the crux; it’s what makes his dizzyingly intricate pieces so seductive. For her third studio album, percussionist Kuniko (yep, the kind of artist who goes by a single name) takes on the 1978 dance score Pléïades, and treats its effervescent textures to a loose, sensual swing. Who knows what the spatially obsessed Xenakis would have thought of her overdubbing the multiple parts of the sixxen (an instrument of Xenakis’s own devising), and it isn’t a hugely muscular performance, but the delicacy and sway are enticing. Also on the disc is Rebonds, a 1988 percussion repertoire stalwart that Kuniko plays with a subdued, affectionate touch.


AllMusic Review

23 April 2015
AllMusic by Blair Sanderson

Among Iannis Xenakis’ most frequently performed and recorded works are his solo percussion pieces, Pléïades and Rebonds, which stretch the limits of a performer’s dexterity, speed, and stamina. As part of her touring Project IX, Kuniko Kato has performed Pléïades in a multimedia presentation with dancer Megumi Nakamura, and Rebonds has been a part of her repertoire ever since she became a professional percussionist, so she has a thorough knowledge of Xenakis’ system of notation and methods. This hybrid SACD from Linn provides the best format for capturing the subtle nuances and timbres of the instruments, which include pitched and unpitched percussion, and the multichannel recording reproduces the wide dynamic range and spatial dimensions of Kato’s performances. Listeners who are coming to Xenakis for the first time may find the percussion works quite accessible, and they will appreciate the precision and power of Kato’s virtuosic playing. Highly recommended.


PS Audio Review

22 April 2015
PS Audio by Lawrence Schenbeck

IX: Iannis Xenakis. Kuniko, percussion (Linn CKD 495; SACD and download). I don’t understand why Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) never became quite as famous (notorious?) as his peers in the late-20th-century avant-garde-characters like Berio, Stockhausen, Boulez, and Cage. On the surface he seemed just as nutty: fanatical, self-serious (unlike Cage, who could be maddeningly un-self-serious), and teeming with mathematical and quasi-scientific justifications for every note (unlike Cage, who carefully, maddeningly hid his careful calculations from the public). Trained as an engineer and architect, Xenakis nevertheless created music that pulsed with life. Like Stravinsky, he thought of music as architecture, but that hardly kept his works from functioning as glowing, complex organisms with forms always informed by their utter fluidity.

Having tackled music of Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt in previous releases for Linn, Kuniko (like Madonna and Björk, she’s only got the one name) now brings us her take on two major Xenakis works, Pléïades and Rebonds. Via multitracking she becomes her own percussion ensemble, creating cascades of sound from the drums and mallet instruments at her disposal. She also writes-and writes well-about this music; it’s actually useful to read what she has to say about these pieces. (The booklet notes include the composer’s own commentaries too.) In Claviers, third movement of Pléïades, one can hear the influence of Asian gamelan, of various algorithms applied to canonic textures, or of Impressionistic echo effects. It’s beautifully elastic-loopy, in every sense of the word-and it may make you smile. (For me it briefly brought to mind the wonderful Groucho-Harpo “mirror scene” in Duck Soup.)


SA-CD.net Review

21 April 2015
SA-CD.net by Castor

For her third release on the Linn label, entitled Xenakis IX, the virtuoso percussionist KUNIKO turns to two of the most inventive and challenging works of the Greek-French avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001).

‘Pléïades’ was composed in 1978 and premiered by the six members of Les Percussions de Strabourg. It has four movements of roughly equal length and lasts, in KUNIKO’s performance, 45 minutes. The titles of each of the movements – Mélanges (Mixtures), Métaux (Metals), Claviers (Keyboard) and Peaux (Skins) – indicate the type of instruments used and hence the differing tonal colours produced. The work also uses an instrument named the SIXXEN made up of metal bars with irregularly distributed pitches. KUNIKO herself selected 120 steel square tubes to produce the sonorities she wanted to achieve from six of these instruments in ‘Métaux’.

Xenakis suggested two possible orders for performance with ‘Mélanges’ placed either first or last. KUNIKO has chosen the former, that allows the listener to experience the full kaleidoscopic percussion panoply before the instrumental groups separate for the subsequent movements.
Her thrilling performance of this remarkable piece is astonishingly confident and absolutely hypnotic.

‘Rebonds’, composed between 1987 and 1989, was written for the respected percussionist Sylvio Gualda whose complimentary note to KUNIKO is reproduced in the liner notes with this SACD. The work is in two parts simply labelled A and B that can be performed in any order. Part A uses only skinned instruments – bongos, tom-toms and bass drums – while Part B adds a set of 5 wood blocks and a tumba to the instrumental line-up. KUNIKO makes light of the mathematical and rhythmic complexities of Xenakis’s compositional technique in her authoratative performance of this work.

The recordings (24-bit / 192kHz) were made in the fine acoustic of Lake Sagami Hall, Kanagawa, Japan at dates between December 2013 and October 2014 by engineers Kazuya Nagae and Yuji Sagae and the sound quality is superb whether one is playing the disc on a stereo or multi-channel set-up. The latter, however, makes maximum use of the surround speakers for the various instrumental groups thus adding to the excitement of the whole listening experience.

Excellent notes by KUNIKO complete this most recommendable issue.


ArtistXite Review

5 May 2015

ArtistXite by Salvatore Pichireddu

JAPANESE PERCUSSIONIST KUNIKO TRANSFORMS IANNIS XENAKIS’ CHALLENGING PERCUSSION MUSIC INTO A PLASTIC, THREE-DIMENSIONAL AND HYPNOTIC MUSICAL EXPERIENCE.

Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis was one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Together with Stockhausen, Boulez and Nono, he was one of those composers initially rejected but eventually celebrated as part of a “great” generation of serialist composers. His frequently very percussive music was characterised by the incorporation of mathematical, geometric, philosophical and architectural principles. The world-class Japanese percusionist Kuniko has now recorded two of Xenakis’ best-known works for drums “Pléïades” and “Rebonds”. They demonstrate how masterfully Xenakis could create music (and not only rhythm) with percussion instruments with an incredibly light melodic touch. In the charismatic Japanese musician’s expert performance, Xenakis’ works are constantly in motion; they are as repetitive and these are progressive. Through the use of a variety of instruments – from the smallest wood blocks to the largest drums – and a sophisticated recording technique (I am tempted to describe it as a “recording choreography”), the album captures an extremely plastic, three-dimensional and hypnotic musical experience.


Blouin Art Info Review

17 April 2015
Blouin Art Info by Regina Mogilevskaya

Are you ready for some music now that you’re done scanning endless listicles about the Tribeca Film Festival? Yeah, I thought so. And hey, you’re even in luck! This week’s In Tune features a song from a film premiering at the festival, as well as the triumphant return of Ratatat, and an introduction to a mystifying percussionist. Kick back with our playlist while getting ready for tomorrow’s Record Store Day.

Kuniko Kato – “Rebonds (Xenakis)”

Track: So here’s a little something new to chew on. To hear Kuniko Kato perform “Rebonds,” a percussion piece originally written by Iannis Xenakis, is to undertake a totally fulfilling, all encompassing experience. The six-minute composition is a driving force, a movement-heavy cascade of bongos and wooden blocks and bass drums. Even if you’ve never choreographed a movement in your life (or had any desire to), something about this piece of music drives your imagination to roll out an entire Pina Bausch-like dance performance.

By: “Rebonds” was originally composed by music theorist and composer Iannis Xenakis. Kuniko Kato is a Japanese percussion soloist whose unparalleled talent has taken her to tour across countless countries, allowed her to be a member of esteemed ensembles, and to release an album of solo work called “Sound Space Experiment.” Her forthcoming album, “IX,” covers two well-known pieces by Xenakis. Listen over at NPR.


NPR Review

14 April 2015
NPR Music ‘Deceptive Cadence’ by Tom Huizenga

Percussionists back in Beethoven’s day could be forgiven for feeling a little bored, waiting for the infrequent roll of the kettledrum or the occasional cymbal crash. But as orchestras grew bigger, percussionists got busier – even more so after World War I, when a new generation of composers began writing specifically for percussion.
Songs We Love
Composers like John Cage and Edgard Varèse expanded musical horizons for percussionists and others, like Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez, followed their lead. The music, whether for soloist or ensemble, moved percussion into the spotlight and helped set standards for performance practice.

Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato (who goes by the single name Kuniko) studied in Tokyo under marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe. Later she was the first percussionist to graduate from the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music.

Kuniko’s new album, IX, is a terrific all-Xenakis affair devoted to two of his best-known percussion pieces.

In Pléïdes, four movements for six percussionists, Kuniko overdubs herself playing each part (watch a fascinating video). But in the two-part Rebonds (“Rebounds”) she is truly alone with her pair of bongos, atumba (large conga), tom-tom, bass drums and a set of five wood blocks.

Xenakis might be considered cerebral (he was also an architect obsessed with geometry and math), but part B of Rebonds has a hypnotic, nearly danceable groove sustained by quick pulses in the bongos and fat punctuations from the bass drums. Kuniko lays out the rhythmic layers cleanly and with confidence. She doesn’t play them speedily (like Pedro Carneiro), but instead opts for fluidity and a distinctive bounce that just might make your hips sway.


Image HiFi Review

02 June 2015
BR Klassik ‚,Leporello‘‘

Der griechische Komponist Iannis Xenakis hat einige der wichtigsten Schlagzeug-Werke des 20. Jahrhunderts geschrieben. Zwei davon hat die japanische Perkussionistin Kuniko Kato, die sich einfach “Kuniko” nennt, jetzt für das schottische Label Linn Records eingespielt.

Wie klingt es, das Funkeln einiger hell leuchtender Sterne am Nachthimmel? “Pléïades” – so heißt eine Komposition von Iannis Xenakis – Plejaden, das ist eine Sternformation, ein Teil der Milchstraße. Iannis Xenakis hat einen Satz seines Werks für ein Instrument geschrieben, das er “Sixxen” genant hat. Er hat dieses spezielle Metall-Glockenspiel für seine “Pléïades” eigens erfunden. Es ist nicht in konventionellen Halb- oder Ganztonschritten gestimmt, sondern in kleineren, sogenannten Mikrotonalen-Abständen, Viertel- und Drittel-Tönen. “Sixxen” – Xen, die zweite Silbe steht für Xenakis. Six steht für die sechs Spieler, die hier spielen sollen. Eigentlich.

Mehr als Spektakel

Die japanische Perkussionistin Kuniko hat sich das wahnsinnig schwierige Stück allein vorgenommen. Sie hat alle sechs Parts nacheinander eingespielt, im Studio wurde dann alles zusammengefügt und auf dieser SACD klanglich perfekt konserviert. Man kann sich im Internet ein Video anschauen, wie sechs wie geklont wirkende Kunikos einen Satz aus den “Pléïades” spielen. Eine Kunst-Performance. Das Ganze ist aber viel mehr als Spektakel: Denn Kuniko hat ihre eigene Sprache, und von der wird hier jede der sechs Stimmen getragen. Kuniko ist eine Tänzerin an ihren Perkussionsinstrumenten – man spürt ihre Körperspannung zwischen den Tönen, man fühlt, wie sie im Raum nach den einzelnen Klängen greift. Jede Bewegung ist genau bemessen, und so arbeitet sie mit jedem Takt die Schönheit der Musik des großen Klang-Architekten Xenakis heraus. Egal ob an konventionellen Stabspielen, speziellen Metallinstrumenten oder an den Trommeln. Hier entstehen wunderbare akustische Skulpturen – als würden sich im Sternenhimmel dreidimensionale Figuren bilden. Die können sich zart umfließen oder: Die Muskeln spielen lassen. Xenakis habe die “Pléïades” als Musik für eine Tanz-Performance angelegt, diesen Aspekt betont Kuniko in ihren Booklet-Anmerkungen. Und dass sie das im Kopf hatte, das hört man ihrer Interpretation deutlich an.

Klarheit und Präzision

Kraftvolles Trommelfeuerwerk gibt’s auch – aber eine Ebene großer Klarheit und Präzision verlässt Kuniko nie. Mit “Rebonds” präsentiert Kuniko auf dieser CD auch Xenakis größten Perkussions-Hit, ein Stück für einen Schlagzeug-Solisten. Im ersten Teil bilden sich langsam polyrhytmische Strukturen, das heißt, unterschiedliche rhythmische Figuren werden gegeneinander gestellt, was ein bisschen wie ein Stolpern im Takt klingt. Kuniko greift so geschickt die von Xenakis vorgegebene Phrasierung auf, dass die Musik zu pulsieren beginnt, atmet. Den vermeintlich so kalten Trommelklängen so viel Leben einzuhauchen, das ist große Kunst.


 


加藤訓子のアルバム及び公演に関する世界各誌のリビューをご覧ください。著者の権利を尊重する目的にてオリジナル言語での原文掲載をご了承ください。

 

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CANTUS REVIEW

Best of 2013 Readers’ Choice – The Washington Post by Joshua Cheek 

‘Several people on my list are already getting copies [of this] insanely beautiful disc.’  by Joshua Cheek

2013年米ワシントンポスト紙よりリーダーズチョイスに選定。

Best Recording Award – 26th MPCJ Music Award (Music Pen Club Japan)

第26回MPCJ音楽賞にて最優秀録音賞受賞。

The Times

‘Listening to these marimba rhythms is just right for a hot day, in fact it’s as refreshing as standing inside Niagara’

American Record Guide Review

17 January 2014
American Record Guide by Rob Haskins

Glenn Gould famously quipped that Hindemith’s motto might well have been ‘I vibrate, therefore I am’. I’d say Pärt’s would have to be ‘I resonate, therefore I am'; he beats nearly all other composers for resonance hands down. This exquisite-sounding program offers compelling transcriptions of his ‘Für Alina’ as well as the ‘Cantus’ and the unforgettable ‘Fratres’. Sometimes the sounds suggest some electronic processing (a high, undulating sheen in the drone for Fratres, in particular), but they only enhance the music’s timbral beauty.


Classical Ear Review

26 November 2013
Classical Ear by Michael J Stewart
This is my first exposure to Kuniko Kato’s extraordinary percussive and arranging talents – and a thoroughly enjoyable experience it is, too. The majority of the disc is devoted to music by Arvo Pärt in arrangements by Kuniko herself. Over the years, the sparse minimalism of his music has lent itself to some interesting and diverse arrangements, but these are certainly some of the most hypnotic and deftly skilled re-workings on disc. Particularly haunting are Spiegel im Spiegel and Fratres, where the hollow timbre of the marimba lends itself to the meditative sound-world of these pieces. Less effective, perhaps, is the brave, but slightly congested sounding Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. A brilliant realisation of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint and the trance-like Purl Ground by Hywel Davies complete this highly rewarding disc. The recording, as we have come to expect from Linn Records, is first class.


Audiophile.no Review

08 November 2013
Audiophile.no by Karl Erik Sylthe

This release from Linn Records is far off the main streets. Kuniko Kato has made interpretations of Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies.

Kuniko Kato was born in Japan, but moved to Europe during training. She received her primary education [in] marimba by Keiko Abe in Tokyo, and received further education by Robert Van Sice in Rotherham.

In Cantus Kuniko has made her own interpretations for marimba and percussion of compositions by Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies. This leads to a very big range in the musical material. Arvo Pärt represents a distinct-but moderately contemporary composer, while Steve Reich is a far more modern composer.

This is not Kuniko’s Foster first release on Linn Records. In 2011 the label released kuniko plays reich, an interpretation of the same Steve Reich’s music. This is a bit daring, but very respectable effort from Linn Records’ side, and illustrates that they are not afraid to go off the beaten track.

We start with Arvo Pärt, since the title track is an interpretation of his composition in conjunction with Benjamin Britten’s death. The opening track ‘Für Alina’ is in its origin a piano piece that was first performed in 1976. I the original shape this is a pretty taciturn piece of music, and this is retained in Kuniko’s interpretation. Kunko’s piece adds a whole new character. It’s a bit like time stops in this piece, where a fairly radical surround mix is an important part of the experience to me. The piece was recorded in a small mountain church near Nagano, and the sound of this church characterize the sound.

‘Cantus’ in Kuniko’s different guise has a very strong character, but also Arvo Pärt’s personal style is very much preserved. The piece has a repetitive descending circular motion, a design that is easy to associate with Pärt. This theme is recognized from the original orchestral version, but Kuniko’s vibrating very polyphonic marimba adds an entirely new dimension. The piece was recorded in Lake Sagami Hall, chosen for the acoustics.

Fratres for me is perhaps the most fascinating composition of Pärt. It is found in a large number of variations, and also a highly repetitive structure. It also has a kind of ‘stop-start’ theme one in a brazen moment can associate with Miles Davis in the first half of the 70th century. Take an open-minded listen to Great Expectations on the album Big Fun from 1970 and see if you recognize this subject, albeit in an extremely different incarnation. Back to Fratres, where Kuniko has created a very distinctive interpretation, with an almost mystical atmosphere in a very sonorous, almost cave-like acoustics of Bankart Studio NYK 1929.

‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ is another of Arvo Pärt’s most prolific compositions. A slowly wandering character is retained in Kuniko its interpretation. The same harsh acoustics of Bankart Studio NYK 1929 goes a bit over the edge, and is a bit difficult to deal with. It is in my ears hardly as successful here as on ‘Fratres’.

Demanding is also the sound of Hywel Davies’s composition ‘Purl Ground’, which is the only composition originally written for marimba. It drowns the acoustic marimba sound in a kind of intermodulation and gives a very distant picture, though intended. While writing, this piece is not yet fully absorbed by this reviewer. But who’s the hurry?

In return, Steve Reich’s piece of ‘New York Counterpoint’ a very fascinating music in Kuniko`s interpretation. Here the marimba gives a very dynamic and rhythmic groove. Vibration is probably the most adequate expression.

Linn Records has made a small feat here. We have the opportunity to expand our musical horizons through a very virtoust Marimba Play and creative interpretations of more contemporary composers. Arvo Pärt is dominant in volume, and it is tempting to allow the two second coming in the shadow of the innovative interpretations of Arvo Pärt. Are you open to exploring new musical terrain, there’s no reason to let this opportunity pass, with its innovative sound in many channels. Carpe Diem!


International Record Review

15 October 2013
International Record Review by Peter Quinn

This follow-up to percussionist Kuniko Kato’s acclaimed debut, ‘Kuniko Plays Reich’ (Linn CKD 385,) is certainly one of the more unusual entries in Arvo Pärt’s impressively vast discography. It features world premiere recordings of Kato’s new arrangements of four classic works by Pärt: ‘Für Alina’, ‘Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten’, ‘Fratres’ and ‘Speigel im Speigel’. The Japanese-born, US-based percussionist rounds out the disc with Reich’s ‘New York Counterpoint’ and Hywel Davies’s ‘Purl Ground’.

Situated in the mountains near Nagano, Japan, the acoustic properties of the small church in which ‘Für Alina’ was recorded are just about perfectly suited to the crystalline purity of the piece. Kato’s arrangement for vibraphone and crotales – the former playing the lower ‘tintinnabuli’ harmony, the latter playing the upper melodic line – works brilliantly, the constant note-against-note counterpoint ringing out to permeate the entire acoustic space…

…’Fratres’…is terrific. Arranged for marimba and vibraphone, the work’s three motivic elements – the ever-present drone of a fifth, the repeating two-bar percussive motif, the six-bar modal melody – and its overall musical journey from consonance to dissonance and back, is most powerfully conveyed here. Kato articulates the clear formal shape with great care while creating that sense of stasis which is so critical to the works appeal. Similarly, Kato fully captures the circular repetitions and extraordinary stillness of ‘Speigel im Speigel’. Originally written for violin and piano, the delicate arpeggiations in the piano part already possessed a palpable bell-like character, making this arrangement for marimba and bells seem entirely apposite. Representing Pärt’s typically ingenious use of simple means, a seemingly endless melodic line consisting of phrases of increasing length and range which always return to the initial starting pitch, Kato’s version now takes its place among many other fine arrangements of this beguiling piece.

The percussionist gave the world premiere performance of her marimba version of Reich’s ‘New York Counterpoint’ in New York last year. Her recording of the work elicits some of the most exciting playing on the disc and, if the third movement doesn’t possess quite the same high energy and jazzy syncopations of Evan Ziporyn on Nonesuch, there’s a wonderfully joyous, dancing quality nonetheless.

Kato gave the British premiere of Hywel Davies’s ‘Purl Ground’, composed in 2003, in 2011 at the Cheltenham Music festival. The only piece on the recording originally scored for solo marimba, its 12-chord sequence resembles a choral. Exploring tremolo sounds and the amazing timbral properties of the five-octave marimba, with a dynamic level that never reaches above pianissimo, at times it feels like your hearing an all-enveloping vibration, rather than specific pitches.

Made under the supervision of all three composers, this thoroughly engaging, fastidiously produced recording casts the marimba in an entirely new light. This, together with opening up the repertoire to other percussionists, is quite an achievement.


Gramophone Review

10 October 2013
Gramophone by Pwyll ap Siôn

Kuniko’s first release, Kuniko Plays Reich (8/11), became Linn’s best-selling album of 2011. And not without reason: the versatile Japanese percussionist’s highly inventive and colourful arrangements of Steve Reich’s music produced one of the discs of the year.

A more difficult task lies ahead in trying to persuade listeners that the same can be applied to Avro Pärt, however. Whereas rhythmic pulse and propulsion are built into the very lifeblood of Reich’s compositions, the Estonian composer’s music operates in a completely different way. It relies far more on the resonances of sustaining instruments such as piano and strings, or the natural cycles of the human voice. Sharp percussive sonorities of marimba and glockenspiel have little place in Pärt’s music.

Kuniko does her best to soften and sustain, such as in the delicate versions of Cantus or the reverberant Speigel im Speigel, which serves as a fitting close. Unsurprisingly, the most convincing moment is reserved for Reich. New York Counterpoint continues where ‘Kuniko Plays Reich’ left off.


The Independent Review

30 July 2013
The Independent by Anna Picard
Percussionist Kuniko Kato completes her survey of Steve Reich’s counterpoint pieces with “New York Counterpoint”, arranged for the marimba with his blessing. Reich’s intricate rhythms are what catch the ear, but it’s the overtones and silences that mesmerise in Arvo Pärt’s “Für Alina and Fratres”. Though “Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten” and “Spiegel im Spiegel” lose clarity in translation, Hywel Davies’s dark “Purl Ground” compensates.


Baker & Taylor Review

08 October 2013
Baker & Taylor CD Hot List

Having previously made a splash with her marimba arrangements of works by Steve Reich, Kuniko goes back to the minimalist well to create this shimmeringly lovely program of works by Reich, Arvo Pärt, and Hywel Davies arranged for various combinations of marimba, vibraphone, crotales, and bells. Some of the choices are surprising (seriously, a marimba-and-vibes arrangement of Fratres?) but they all work wonderfully. Any library that supports a percussion program should jump at the chance to acquire this example of masterful transcription for mallet keyboards.


All About Jazz Review

05 October 2013
All About Jazz by C. Michael Bailey

Percussionist Kuniko Kato is a total package who redefines our awareness of the vibraphone, marimba, indeed the entire percussive spectrum. If we think of the ‘vibes’ as Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Victor Feldman, Gary Burton and Joe Locke then we are missing a full half of the population of players. On her debut and sophomore releases for the British Linn Records, Kuniko turns her considerable attention to minimalism, first Reich and then he and his peers.

Steve Reich, along with La Monte Young, Terry Riley and Philip Glass, spearheaded the Minimal Music movement in the early 1960s. Minimal Music is characterized by consonant harmony, a steady beat, no or only slowly evolving transmutation, and often atomization of musical phrases or smaller units such as motifs. Reich certainly achieves these standards on his “Counterpoints,” three (of four) of which are presented in percussion reductions on Kuniko Plays Reich.

Much discussion between artist and composer was had before final arrangements were made for recording. Kuniko proves a careful and studied musician who holds dear Reich’s feelings and ideas about his music. Reich’s Electric Counterpoint (1987) was originally composed for guitarist Pat Metheny. With Reich’s direction, Kuniko arranges the three-part piece for steel pans, vibraphone and marimba. The three sections are devoted each to the three instruments, with bridging sections for the newly introduced instruments and pre-recorded tape. The music is hypnotic and mantra-like, studying rhythm, repetition and volume dynamics.

Six Marimbas Counterpoint is arranged for a tape of Kuniko playing five marimbas with a live solo section for the sixth. The organic sound of the marimbas makes for an earthy palette upon which Kuniko heaps polyrhythms, again hypnotically. Volume dynamics are modulated with dramatic effect. The final Vermont Counterpoint originally scored for flute, piccolo and alto flute, yielded creatively to Kuniko’s arrangement plan. With a greater rhythmic complexity than the previous counterpoints, Vermont Counterpoint allow for whimsy and imagination. The vibraphone allows for a very digital quality of the music, standing as a contrast to the organic presentation of Six Marimbas Counterpoint. This is highly kinetic music in both direction and and time.

In stark contrast to the highly rhythmic Kuniko Plays Reich, Kuniko’s second Linn release focusing on minimal music, Cantus revisits Reich and then branches out to other lions of the movement: Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and British composer Hywel Davies. Kuniko completes her survey of Steve Reich’s four counterpoints with New York Counterpoint originally composed in 1985 for amplified clarinet and tape, or 11 clarinets and bass clarinet. Again, with the composer’s direction, Kuniko arranges a tactile soundscape for the reeds-directed composition, recalling the whole of Kuniko Plays Reich.

Kuniko’s treatment of the Pärt’s Fur Alina, Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, the composer’s famous Fratres and Speigel Im Speigel is slow, low and magestic, the percussionist drawing out the human vocal qualities of vibraphone and marimba, particularly on the Britten-dedicated piece. Davies’ Purl Ground reveals a tactile bridge between Reich and Pärt, one of evolving kinesis over a low-hum or foundation. As striking as the music is, the spectre of Kuniko in flight is equally striking from her athletically efficient performance to her precise and exquisite presence: a total artistic package, shining with grace and brilliance.


Facts & Arts Review

20 September 2013
Facts & Arts by Michael Johnson

Renowned Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato makes stunning music from the simplest of instruments, stretching their sonorities to heights never previously heard on record. In her new CD, Cantus (CKD 432, Linn Records), she shows what can be done when her insight into contemporary compositions converges with her talent for composing, arranging, careful choice of venue, sound engineering and even the programming of a CD.

The title track, ‘Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten’, is an Arvo Pärt composition arranged by Kuniko and supervised by Pärt. She keeps to a pianissimo mood but gradually expands the piece with the addition of orchestral parts. When she has finished, twenty-nine parts have been layered under the dominant tones of her marimba. As she writes exuberantly in her liner notes, ‘We had over 200 tracks by the end of this recording!’

She collaborated with Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies in her arrangements and performances in these percussion versions of their work. She says she is drawn to contemporary composers because she wants to make minimalist music ‘more accessible’, and she achieves her goal brilliantly.

A followup to an earlier Linn release, kuniko plays reich, this CD opens with ‘Für Alina’, a short and quiet Pärt piece for vibraphone and small brass cymbals known as crotales. It creates a perfect somnolent mood for the rest of the program. She then moves into Reich’s popular ‘New York Counterpoint’, replicating the original clarinet sound with special mallets and striking techniques on the marimba.

The most unusual piece is Davies’ ‘Purl’, another marimba composition that makes full use of the instrument’s five octaves. Always attentive to resonances, Kuniko struggled through multiple takes, she says, to achieve the humming sound that Davies required. I find myself agreeing with her description of the evocative images Davies has conceived. ‘When I close my eyes,’ she writes, ‘I am greeted by visions of sunlight dancing on water, gently changing color.’

Kuniko created and staged the Sound Space Experiment – Steel Drum Works four years ago in Tokyo and it still attracts an internet audience. This version of Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ will stay in the memory for its extraordinary musicality and the evident joy Kuniko and a participating Tokyo audience derive from playing with oil drums, and rattles while she carries the melody on the Caribbean steel drums, marimba and vibraphone.

Kuniko is recognized internationally as perhaps the most innovative musician in her field of percussion. She has performed at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and has worked with such conductors and composers as James Wood, Seiji Ozawa, Iannis Xenakis, Toru Takemitsu and the late Franco Donatoni.

Her recordings for Linn, a Scottish label, have recently become available in the U.S. through Naxos.

Kuniko’s commitment to living composers is a welcome step in her development as a mature musician.


Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

16 September 2013
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review by Grego Applegate Edwards

There is something to me that sounds spatially-cosmically Japanese about her renditions, like a minimalist Japanese house-matter-of-fact yet mysterious in its presence. It’s both simple in appearance yet deeply meaningful. Kuniko sounds like that to me.

This is one stunning album. Kuniko is a phenomenon and she makes the music her own in sonically moving ways. Excellent!


La Scena Musicale Review

05 September 2013
La Scena Musicale by Norman Lebrecht

Sir Thomas Beecham used to call his percussion ‘kitchen instruments’ and treat the players at the back of the orchestra like household staff. Percussion has come a long way since then, both in the diversity of instruments and in force of ambition.
Kuniko Kato, a US-based Japanese virtuoso, applies her marimbas, crotales, bells and vibraphones to the works of living composers, several of whom are delight in the extra colours and dimensions she adds to their work. Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich, meticulous to a fault, assisted in the making of this album.

Reich’s landmark 1985 work New York Counterpoint is shaded by Kuniko gently away from its original insistent heaviness into a sound picture that recalls Hokusa’s Wave, the original cover of Debussy’s La Mer, a seascape full of promise and menace. Four pieces by Pärt are imbued with a shimmer so haunting that you forget they were originally written for strings – none more so than the 1977 Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten which, no longer mourning, finds a certain celebration in a composer’s life. The sound, recorded at 24-bit/192hz by Yuji Sagae and Junichiro Hayashi, is outstanding. Why can’t all records sound this good?


Allmusic Review

05 September 2013
AllMusic.com by James Manheim
Kuniko Kato, who goes by the single name Kuniko, is an emerging Japanese marimba and vibraphone virtuosa who stirred up considerable attention with her 2011 release kuniko plays reich. Cantus, which is curiously named, expands on the transcription ideas developed for the earlier release. Kuniko sets out to expand the sonic vocabulary of her percussion instruments through the use of various mallets and strike techniques. This is an extremely intriguing idea, for latter-day developments in minimalist music have involved experiments with extending its range without losing its basic aesthetic. Kuniko thus hits a certain sweet spot, and it’s no surprise to learn that all three of the composers featured here — Arvo Pärt, Reich once again, and British minimalist Hywel Davies — supervised and approved of Kuniko’s arrangements. At times it is hard to believe you’re hearing just a single marimba (additional instruments, all played by Kuniko, appear on only three pieces). In Reich’s New York Counterpoint the marimba emits eerily clarinet-like sounds. But perhaps the strongest performances are those of Pärt’s music, where Kuniko keeps the sounds a bit simpler and lets the instrument flower into the resonances that are at the heart of the composer’s brand of minimalism. It is no wonder the elderly Pärt liked these renditions, which extend his language in a totally ingenious and musical way. The final Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror) is haunting, and the entire album is essential listening for anyone with the slightest interest in contemporary percussion.


Infodad Review

29 August 2013
Infodad

Kuniko Kato, who generally uses only the name Kuniko, is a very fine percussionist who is strongly dedicated to the music of contemporary composers – so strongly that she not only gives world premières of their music but also arranges some of their works for percussion so she can perform them as well…The disc will be of most interest to fans of Pärt, since four of the six works here are by him: Für Alina (1976/2012) for vibraphone and crotales; Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (1977/2012) for marimba; Fratres (1977/2012) for marimba and vibraphone; and Spiegel im Spiegel (1978/2012) for marimba and bells. Kuniko’s arrangements are attractive, and she certainly plays them well…The works by Pärt are interspersed with Reich’s New York Counterpoint (1985/2012) for marimba and Davies’ Purl Ground (2003)…


SA-CD.net Review

26 August 2013
SA-CD.net by Polly Nomial
Firstly, the playing: in Pärt’s ‘Fur Alina’, Kuniko uses dazzling crotales above a soft, constant vibraphone; the effect is beautifully simple. Next up is Steve Reich’s ‘New York Counterpoint’, arranged for marimba, which in the outer movements has the effect of waves of sound washing over the listener (in MCH). Returning to Pärt for his ‘Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten’, this enormously powerful yet sparse piece originally for strings is sensitively played by Kuniko on tremolo marimba’s that emit wave after wave of sound that, in MCH, engulf the listener most powerfully.

…Davies’ ‘Purl Ground’ follows and this is a very sombre and moody conception which is vividly portrayed; Kuniko evokes unsettling emotions and is a measure of the power of her performance. Pärt closes the disc with ‘Spiegel im spiegel'; so successful is the performance that one is not concerned with the instrumentation in the slightest.

The recording is very very good in MCH; in ‘Fur Alina’, the layout seems to be in a huge arc that envelopes the listener – very effective indeed. In ‘New York Counterpoint’, ‘Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten & Fratres’, the sensitive choices of positioning add a huge amount of textural clarity and spatial interest to the proceedings. The distant bell of the ‘Cantus’ is marvellously evocative. ‘Purl Ground’ and ‘Spiegel im spiegel’ are both well recorded too, with ‘Spiegel’ apparently laid out in a similar way to ‘Fur Alina’ (we go full circle in MCH!)…the timbres and overtones are captured with extraordinary beauty…

21 August 2013
SA-CD.net by Jonalogic
…there is some great minimalist music here; Kuniko’s playing is – as ever – subtle, austere and hypnotic.


Irish Times Review

16 August 2013
Irish Times by Michael Dervan
Japanese percussionist Kuniko is on a minimalist mission. She’s already recorded three of Steve Reich’s Counterpoint series, and here adds the fourth, New York Counterpoint, arranged for multi-tracked marimbas. But the main focus here is Arvo Pärt, who, like Reich, has co-operated in the making of the arrangements. Für Alina comes for vibraphone and crotales; Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten for marimba (blended from more than 200 tracks); Fratres for marimba and vibraphone; and Spiegel im Spiegel for marimba and bells. Varied recording venues and microphone perspectives are used to create soundworlds of a delicacy and richness well beyond what the instrumentations suggest. One original work, Hywel Davies’ Purl Ground for quietly humming marimba, completes the disc.


MusicWeb International Review

14 August 2013
MusicWeb International by Byzantion

…Kato’s first album, ‘Kuniko Plays Reich’, was Linn’s bestseller of 2011.

This time she felt inspired to rearrange Pärt, and more Reich, ‘to make minimalist music more accessible’, as she puts it in the accompanying notes….

…Kato has an impeccable sense of rhythm and a capacity for concentration…it cannot be denied that these works, Pärt’s especially, have a mesmeric quality that sucks the unwary listener into the Void. Kato’s superb control of the marimba and vibraphone deepens these pulsing, rocking and ‘tintinnabular’ effects.


The Observer Review

21 July 2013
The Observer by Nicholas Kenyon

The art of transcription flourishes in these imaginiative reworkings of classics by Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich in the hands of a master marimba player. Kuniko adds percussion and makes her own arrangements. Least successful is the title track, where Pärt’s hypnotic homage to Britten is reworked as 200 mixed tracks and comes across as far too buzzy and busy. But both Spiegel im spiegel with resonant marimba and bells, and Für Alina reworked for vibraphone and crotales create a distant world of repetitive beauty. Hywel Davies’s Purl Ground, with its deep marimba resonance, completes an absorbing recital.



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KUNIKO PLAYS REICH REVIEW

‘Kuniko Kato is a first rate percussionist who has put a lot of careful thought and hours of rehearsal into making this excellent CD. She has created new and very beautiful arrangements.’    Steve Reich, 2011

2011年6月グローバルリリース。加藤訓子によるリンレコーズ第一作目のアルバム。同年のレーベルベストセラーBEST OF 2011 。以下には海外公演のリビューも含まれます。

American Record Guide Review

01 September 2011
American Record Guide
Kuniko is an exciting and expressive percussionist who has performed a great variety of 20th Century music. She has made idiomatic arrangements of two pieces from Reich’s “Counterpoint” series (Electric Counterpoint was originally scored for guitars; Vermont Counterpoint, for flutes) and produces a delightful multitracked recording of Six Marimbas. I cannot fault the ingenuity and care of the arrangements and am awed by her technique and musicality. Unfortunately, the percussion instruments she uses (including steel drums and marimbas) obligate her to transpose much of Electric Counterpoint up an octave, and I miss the solid foundation for the harmony that the lower notes supply in the original. On the other hand, the Vermont arrangement (scored for vibes) improves on the flute original in many ways, not least in rhythmic incisiveness.


Phile-Web Review

06 August 2011
Phile-Web by Tadashi Yamanouchi

‘kuniko plays reich’ an excellent album that even challenges your audio device

Here are two extracts from Tadashi Yamanouchi’s lovely review for Phile-Web Japan:

‘It made me excited as if I am listening to a brand-new piece.’

‘Kuniko’s challenging approach is totally beyond the faithful reproduction of the score or just a different version with other instruments, and it is rather successful in creating new dimension of Reich’s works.’


The Sunday Times Review

10 July 2011
The Sunday Times by Paul Driver

…That couldn’t quite be said of the young Japanese-American percussionist Kuniko, who played a 70-minute sequence at the recently built, crisply finished Parabola Arts Centre. The essence was her versions of three of the “couterpoint” pieces (for other instruments) by Steve Reich – whose 75th birthday the festival celebrated – but she began with a marimba suite of her own and fitted in Hywel Davies’s Purl Ground (2003) for marimba, an exercise in sotto-voce tremolos. The Reich works all involve mulitple versions of the same performer on tape, duly intermodulated, and often one wonders why a live element is needed at all. Kuniko left one in no doubt. Her lissome presence was all-dominating. She didn’t merely play her vibes, glockenspiel and marimba, she danced around them.


The Arts Desk Review

10 July 2011
The Arts Desk by David Nice

Sunday afternoon was a palate-cleansing Steve Reichfest. Bowen had jumped with three weeks’ notice at the chance to slip in a clutch of UK premieres from the phenomenal Kuniko Kato at the Parabola Arts Centre, centred around her composer-approved arrangements of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint – steel pans leading the way – Six Marimbas Counterpoint, a duet with Kuniko’s pre-recorded self through superlatively good speakers, and Vermont Counterpoint, in which she leapt stylishly between vibraphone and glockenspiel (her recording, which this performance instantly sold to me, is pictured below). I liked the subtle ripple of Kuniko’s own sea picture which launches her own marimba Suite, and the self-styled “aleatoric soul music” of Hywel Davies’s hauntingly near-inaudible Purl Ground.

Kuniko is the total artist, no question: her attention to lighting, sound, dancing communication with the audience and questing programme notes reveals a perfectionist. I can’t wait to hear her again.


L'Union Review

11 July 2011
L’Union by Cécile DELOBEL

Dans le hall d’exposition au 1er étage du centre des congrès, lieu digne d’une chorégraphie de Pina Bausch, haute et large structure métallique, de béton et de verre laissant passer en ses côtés la lumière, le ciel, les marronniers du jardin et la ville, c’est aussi à une véritable démonstration d’art martial que nous a invités hier après-midi, Kuniko Kato tout d’abord lorsqu’elle a joué Rebonds de Xenakis.

En percussions, tout le corps participe, c’est visible : les pieds sont sur la pointe pour un son plus aérien ou prennent au contraire appui sur le sol lorsqu’il faut de la puissance, les jambes assurent l’équilibre d’un côté ou de l’autre, véritable balancier, les bras dirigent les baguettes et leur intensité, chaque frappe est pensée, préparée tout en beauté. L’expression du visage elle-même l’accompagne ou l’anticipe comme chez le samouraï. Rien n’arrête Kuniko Kato, qui a fait son apprentissage à Tokyo, auprès de Keiko Abe, la reine des marimbistes. Elle est capable des rythmes les plus complexes comme dans Rebonds a. Elle enchaîne de façon virtuose comme dans Rebonds b l’alternance bien contrastée entre le chant de guerre, roulement des cinq toms et les sons du marimba et du woodblock, véritable souffle du vent dans les roseaux. Les sons viennent de très loin jusqu’à nous puis s’éloignent dans les trilles du marimba, sur la pointe des pieds, elle danse doucement comme dans Torse III d’Akira Miyoshi. Elle nous montre que tout peut se dire : les longues phrases insistent, interrogent, des accords aux amples vibrations avec pédale répondent : c’est Omar I et II de Franco Donatoni au vibraphone.

Toute la deuxième partie consacrée à la musique de Steve Reich emploie un dispositif de dix haut-parleurs qu’elle dispose en cercle autour d’elle et qui diffusent les autres voix lui permettant de jouer seule un morceau composé à l’origine pour six marimbas. Un ingénieur du son, Yuji Sagae, en règle l’équilibre pour qu’il corresponde au son naturel du marimba et à ce qu’elle joue. Littéralement entouré par le son, l’auditeur n’a plus qu’à se laisser ensorceler ou hypnotiser. En témoigne une petite fille au premier rang plongée dans ses rêves. Kuniko Kato nous montrera encore combien tout en jouant, elle se chante la musique de Steve Reich à elle-même, s’amusant de toutes les syncopes, changements de rythmes et toujours très claire dans ses intentions.

Electric Counterpoint qu’elle a transcrit pour pouvoir le jouer aux percussions et seule nous fera entendre aussi les steel drums, ces espèces de « casseroles » d’acier qui rappellent le son des gamelans dans une version qui enchante Steve Reich, signe de leur parfaite entente musicale. Pour finir ce furent des applaudissements nombreux et enthousiastes, saluant autant la musique que la chorégraphie de Kuniko Kato qui remercia par une dernière transcription : un chant japonais au marimba.


The Big City Blog Review

04 June 2012
The Big City Blog by George Grella

It seems the Art Space strug­gles against this obsta­cle. Reich is titan of con­tem­po­rary music and, in a coun­try where com­posers don’t reg­is­ter on the pub­lic con­scious­ness, he is gen­er­ally pop­u­lar with sophis­ti­cated fans of all sorts of music. Yet Kuniko’s con­cert was lightly attended, and much of the audi­ence seemed con­nected to the music through the Con­sulate Gen­eral of Japan. This was an excel­lent con­cert. The music, “Elec­tric Coun­ter­point,” “Six Marim­bas,” Ver­mont Coun­ter­point” and “New York Coun­ter­point,” with mod­est and lovely arrange­ments of Bach and Komi­tas, speaks for itself, and Kuniko’s craft is supe­rior. Reich’s work lends itself eas­ily to tran­scrip­tion to other instru­ments, and the pit­fall is that it is so easy that the results can be lazy and dull. She has a sub­tle and imag­i­na­tive ear for color, and mov­ing the lead voice of the open­ing move­ment of “Elec­tric” to steel drums was a gor­geous touch, adding a shim­mer­ing, sus­tained rich­ness as well as a delayed attack that made for a new, ambi­ent quality.

Per­cus­sion instru­ments call for a great appar­ent phys­i­cal­ity in play­ing than gui­tars or vio­lins or flutes, and that was visu­ally impor­tant in the con­cert, not only the effort of Kuniko in strik­ing metal and wood with beat­ers, but her danc­ing move­ments. She was filled up with the phys­i­cal­ity of Reich’s beat, even as the sonic edge of the musi­cal was gen­tler, as in the trans­fer of “New York” from pip­ing clar­inets to mel­low marim­bas. The music is very well known by now, but she made it refresh­ing. With her own ear and taste she responded to pieces that she clearly feels are beau­ti­ful and gave us music-making that took for granted the intel­lec­tual suc­cess of the composer’s process and craft and gave us the sheer beauty of it, and that’s a con­sid­er­able thing.


Cheltenham Festival Review

01 April 2013
cheltenhamfestivals.com

Kuniko Kato released her 2011 album of Steve Reich arrangements to huge critical acclaim and the praise of the composer himself. Her latest project, due for release in May, takes one more of Reich’s counterpoints and a selection of some of the best known works from the meditative minimalist Arvo Pärt. Tracks from the aptly titled new CD, ‘Ultimate Minimalism’, will be performed live by Kuniko using a visually stunning array of electronic loops and speakers that allow her to duet with the melodies and patterns she has just played. Her performance is powerful, balletic and truly enthralling to watch. Beautiful, intricate, captivating arrangements of some of the most heartfelt music that minimalism has to offer.


Time Out Tokyo Review

13 June 2011
Time Out Tokyo

‘This small girl plays so powerfully,’ marveled Steve Reich the first time he saw Kuniko Kato perform one of his pieces. Fortunately, the Japanese percussionist – who goes simply by her first name – took it as a compliment rather than a putdown. Kuniko has since established herself as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of Reich’s percussion pieces, first with the Brussels-based Ictus Ensemble and more recently as a solo performer. Her new album, Kuniko Plays Reich, features her own arrangements of ‘Electric Counterpoint’, ‘Six Marimbas’ and ‘Vermont Counterpoint’, devised in collaboration with the composer himself, and with Kuniko overdubbing the various parts. Live, she repeats the trick by playing with a backing track – not an ideal solution, perhaps, but we suspect she’ll be able to pull it off.


Music Web International Review

12 June 2011
Music Web International by Kirk McElhearn

This disc contains percussion arrangements of three works by Steve Reich, performed by percussionist Kuniko Kato using multiple overdubs. The artist says, “All three pieces were solo overdubbed; however I played through all the parts from the beginning to the end, without using loops or quantisation in order to emphasise the live atmosphere in ensemble performance. All of the mixings are based on my concepts and I closely collaborated with each recording engineer.”
Electric Counterpoint was scored for “as many as ten guitars and two electric bass parts”, which were taped, and an additional guitar performing live. Here, Kuniko’s arrangement loses the fluid, pulsing sound of the guitar, but creates its own sound-world, very close to other Steve Reich works for percussion. The effect is interesting and attractive, and listening to this piece made me forget what the original sounds like. It takes on a world of its own as a more jumpy work, and has an attractive sound and energy.

Six Marimbas Counterpoint is an arrangement of Six Marimbas, which, itself, is an adaptation of one of Steve Reich’s seminal works, Six Pianos. Kuniko performs this with one part live and five parts on tape. Compared to Reich’s own recording of this work, the sound is fuller and richer here, but the music is similar, and the tempo is close enough to the original that it differs by only a few seconds. This is, in my opinion, one of Reich’s most interesting works, and perhaps one of the best ways to discover his music. The original Six Pianos has, I think, a more attractive sound than the version for marimbas, but it’s obvious that getting six pianos on a stage is difficult. This work is full of gorgeous rhythmic interplay among the different instruments, based around very strict rhythms.

Finally, Vermont Counterpoint Version for Vibraphone is an arrangement of a work scored for eight flutes and tape. Here, played on vibraphone, it gives a much different tone than the original, yet it works just as well. As it is a work based on rhythmic structures, percussion fits the music, and the sound Kuniko achieves is quite attractive. The mixing is interesting as well, with a broad soundstage spreading out the various instruments so they sound both separate and connected at the same time.

If you’re a fan of Steve Reich’s work, you’ll certainly find this an interesting disc. If not, it may not be the best place to start, as the somewhat uniform approach of three works for percussion may not be the ideal gateway to this type of minimalism. But Reich’s music is based on rhythm, and percussion is the most apt type of instrument to perform it.

Well conceived, and very well recorded, the only downside to this enjoyable disc is that it is a mere 41 minutes. One or two more works by Reich would have been nice.


CKUA Radio Review

10 June 2011
CKUA Radio by Kevin Wilson

Cloud-watching season is upon us: here’s the lying-on-your-back-in-the-grass-staring-at-the-sky music you’ll be needing. Kuniko Kato revisits three Steve Reich compostions from the 80s, creating her own arrangements for vibraphone, marimba and steel drum. The methodical Kuniko layers her own performances on top of one another, and the resulting sum of rhythm and melody beguiles. Compare Kuniko’s version of Electric Counterpoint, written for the guitar of Pat Metheny: the edges are rounded slightly here, and the evolving patterns of sound swing every so gently. In fact, this would be great to listen to while you’re on a swing. Sounds like summer to me: music brimming with vitality and carefree energy, the sound of nature in motion. Deservedly and unreservedly endorsed by the composer.


Musica Magazine Review

26 May 2011
Musica Magazine by Claudio Bolzan
Esponente di spicco del minimalismo in musica, Steve Reich è presente in questo disco con tre ampie composizioni per organici diversi, arrangiate e presentate dalla percussionista giapponese Kuniko Kato in una nuova veste strumentale (realizzata consultando direttamente lo stesso compositore): Electric counterpoint, articolato in tre movimenti (da eseguire senza soluzione di continuità), è presentato in un’elaborazione per vibrafono, marimba e nastro preregistrato; Six marimbas counterpoint è offerto in una riduzione per la sola marimba e nastro preregistrato, mentre Vermont counterpoint è eseguito nella versione per solo vibrafono e nastro preregistrato. Si tratta di composizioni nelle quali un modulo ritmico-melodico è ripetuto dall’inizio alla fine apportando microvariazioni tese a creare un impercettibile movimento all’interno di un tessuto compatto e, solo apparentemente, uniforme. Nell’affrontare questo arduo itinerario, la percussionista giapponese Kuniko Kato si è dimostrata una strumentista straordinaria, pienamente in grado di dipanare questi vasti e complessi edifici con una lucidità e una organicità tali da dar vita a una trama sonora di singolare fascino, grazie anche alle magie timbriche create con la marimba: è il caso, ad esempio, del Six marimbas counterpoint, reso con una precisione ritmica e con una energia davvero sorprendenti, o, ancora, del Vermont counterpoint, pagina di liquida fluidità affrontata con un controllo assoluto non solo del ritmo, ma anche delle dinamiche. Al disco è allegato un elegante fascicolo comprendente ampie e dettagliate note di presentazione firmate dallo stesso Reich e da Kuniko Kato.


The Music Cube Review

26 May 2011
The Music Cube

Kuniko Plays Reich is a new album from Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato featuring her own percussion arrangements of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint (1987, written for guitars), Six Marimbas (1986), and Vermont Counterpoint (1982, written for flutes). Kuniko plays the steel pans, tenor pan, vibraphone, and marimba on the album. Each piece is arranged for solo percussion and pre-recorded tape for live performance.

According to Steve Reich: Kuniko Kato is a first rate percussionist who has put a lot of careful thought and hours of rehearsal into making this excellent CD. She has created new and very beautiful arrangements.

The Guardian‘s Stephen Pritchard calls the album “a hypnotic and strangely calming experience.”

Kuniko studied with Keiko Abe at Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, Japan and Robert Van Sice at Rotterdam Conservatorium in the Netherlands where she graduated summa cum laude as the first percussionist in the conservatory’s history. She has since performed around the world and collaborated with many renowned composers and conductors including James Wood, Franco Donatoni, Unsuk Chin and, of course, Steve Reich. She now lives in the US.

If you’re looking for something cool and modern, (but still accessible and easy on the ears) I definitely recommend Kuniko Plays Reich.


The Scotsman Review

24 May 2011
The Scotsman by Kenneth Walton

The music is familiar, but the artist isn’t. This is Japanese percussionist Kuniko’s debut album for Linn, in which she premieres her own percussion arrangements of three of American minimalist Steve Reich’s “counterpoints” of the 1980s – Electronic Counterpoint, Six Marimbas Counterpoint and Vermont Counterpoint. She focuses on a sound world dominated by marimba, vibraphone and steel pans, which colour these works with soft-cushioned textures. But it is her direct collaboration with Reich, and a worldwide network of top sound producers, that adds sheen to the multi-tracked finished article.


The Nottingham Post Review

16 May 2011
The Nottingham Post by Peter Palmer

US minimalist Steve Reich had his doubts when Japanese percussion virtuoso Kuniko Kato proposed arranging his guitar piece Electric Counterpoint for steel pans, vibes and marimba. He also had other ideas on Vermont Counterpoint, which she adapted for vibraphone and tape. But Kato won him over, and these poetic recordings show how. Her solo on Six Marimbas completes a superb album.


The Observer Review

24 April 2011
The Observer by Stephen Pritchard

Steve Reich’s trademark mesmeric repetitions take on another quality here when they are lifted away from their intended scoring and given to percussion. Japanese virtuoso Kuniko finds new sonorities in Electric Counterpoint, written for guitars, when transferring it to steel pans, marimba and vibraphone, and brings Vermont Counterpoint (for flutes) to dazzling, invigorating life on the vibraphone. All these studio works involve vast amounts of pre-recording to refine their pleasing results, none more so than Six Marimbas Counterpoint which involves five pre-recorded tracks behind a solo line. It’s a hypnotic and strangely calming experience.


Words and Music Review

18 April 2011
Words and Music by Rick Jones

A CD, Kuniko Plays Reich, arrives from Record Company of the year, Linn Records. The Japanese percussionist arranges Electric Counterpoint for steel drums, marimba and vibraphone plus tape and worries the composer as he conceived the piece for electric guitars, ie identical instruments. Kuniko’s version, in which each movement focuses on a different instrument, persuades him however. The gentle steady rhythm is seductive. The pans clatter, their vague tuning is un-Reich-like, but their placid sway has the unexpected redolence of the Gamelan. Behind, the vibraphone’s ‘wave sound’ comes in and out of earshot like a swarm of bees, giving the music almost 3-D depth.

In Six Marimbas Counterpoint, Kuniko pre-records five of the parts and plays the sixth ‘live’, a contrast lost on disc. The smooth robotic pulse, unvarying volume, and constantly repeating phrases have a trance-like effect. She plays with clean, precise hits, the hard beater-heads giving an urgent bite to the music. The cheerful bounce contrasts with the conveyor-belt, automaton character like a happy factory worker.

Vermont Counterpoint is originally for flute and tape, but Kuniko’s version is for vibraphone. Phase shift techniques create chance rhythmic, gradually changing patterns as in a kaleidoscope. Nothing happens in the music; it never modulates, comes to no cadences and changes key only once and abruptly, without preamble. The piece stops as peremptorily as it starts, although the conclusion is marked with a shimmering of tones which is as much of an emotional climax as Reich ever creates. This is music for the machine age, clean, efficient, precise and of our time. Kuniko expresses this beautifully.