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Miko Dance.

Miko Dance for horn and orchestra (horn and piano reduction) by Hiroshi Hoshina. CO84a, 2007, 25.00 CHF.

Tango e Paso Doble for horn, tuba, and piano by Jean-Francois Leze. ENS 171, 2007. 20.00 CHF.

Quintet No. 1 for woodwind quintet by Hrachia Melikyan. MCX48, 2005.

Miko Dance was inspired by and pays tribute to the slow and elegant Japanese Shinto ceremonial prayer dance performed by priestesses with fans and delicate bells (see YouTube). It was written in 2006 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Hoshina Academy Chamber Orchestra Ensemble Harmonia, a very active ensemble of dedicated amateur musicians. Satoshi Sugimoto played the premiere performance in Tokyo in 2007. In 2009, this concerto (with piano reduction) was a compulsory work for the final round of the 20 Concorso Internazionale "Citta di Porcia" in Italy.

Hiroshi Hoshina, who retired from a long career as a teacher, conductor, clinician, and author in 2001, has composed a broad range of works (solo and ensemble, instrumental and vocal), including many works for wind band, for which he is particularly revered. Throughout his distinguished career, he devoted much time and attention to the instruction of students and amateur musicians, and I believe that this 15-minute concerto reflects his apparent ideals for providing deeply meaningful and musical compositions that are accessible to a broad range of performers, emphasizing style and interpretation, and featuring interesting but reasonable technical demands.

The slow and cadenza sections of the one-movement piece feature a rhythmic, poetic motif with rather free, expressive interpretations of tempo. Although the Allegro ritmico (quarter = c. 126) presents mixed meters (7/8, 3/4, 4/4) and interesting syncopations, the use of sixteenth-note motion is judicious. The required range extends from b-flat (directly below the treble staff) to c'" for which the lower octave is always supplied as an option; otherwise, the top note is a fortissimo b[flat]". The sporadic a"s and a[flat]"s usually occur at the top of a conjunct line at a full dynamic level. Just two stopped pitches and a brief muted section are included. Adequate rest for the soloist occurs throughout the work, so because of the modest range and tessitura, this would be a significant, contrasting, and appealing addition to a full recital program of more standard repertoire.

Recordings of some of Hoshina's band music are available from Mark Records. Numerous videos appear on YouTube of the Hoshina Academy Chamber Orchestra Ensemble Harmonia performing a wide variety of works, including some conducted by Hoshina himself.

Jean-Francois Leze, a percussionist, is a professor at the Escola Superior de Musica e das Artes do Espectaculo (Porto, Portugal), an active performer of solo and chamber music, and the principal timpanist of the Orquestra Nacional do Porto. Tango e Paso Doble was premiered by Jose Bernardo Silva, to whom it was dedicated, at the 36th International Horn Symposium 2004 in Valencia, Spain, along with Cancoes Lunares (Songs from the Moon), also for horn, tuba, and piano. Silva's recording of these works plus Sonhos (Dreams) for horn and piano, with the composer at the piano, received a rave review in the May 2008 issue of The Horn Call, and is also available from Editions BIM.

According to the very brief notes about this five-minute work for horn, tuba, and piano, "Tango e Paso Doble is inspired by the Argentinean tango by Astor Piazolla and by the traditional Spanish dance Paso Doble in its metric, its harmony and in the dance pace without ever losing sight of the Latin sense of humour." The composition features the horn, including a stopped reference to the bullfight trumpet fanfare and quite a few b"s and c"'s, with the tuba and piano primarily providing the dance rhythm with an occasional, traditional little flourish. The ending of the piece fades out. It is a wonderful, colorful addition to the relatively scarce repertoire for this great combination.

Hrachia Melikyan (1947-2006) was an important figure in the Armenian contemporary school of composition, which introduced Western concepts to the unique sounds of ancient Armenian church and folk music. Oversimplified, traditional Armenian music is monodic and modal (yet in a sense tonal)--based on diatonic scales unrelated to the octave and exotic sounding to Western ears. The exposure to such melodies for many of us has been limited to works by American composers Hovhaness and Alfred Reed, Arutiunian's trumpet concerto, and works by Khatchaturian. According to a fascinating article on Armenia in Grove Music Online, ancient Armenian music was somewhat recreated and cultivated throughout the 20th century, even before reflecting Western influences.

Melikyan wrote Quintet No. 1 in 1990, but it was not premiered until 2006, unfortunately a few weeks after his death. Although the French flutist who performed for the premiere and prepared the work for publication described it as "an expressive work deploying a strong dramatic character leading into serenity," the presentation of this demanding atonal-sounding composition will require an adventurous ensemble and audience. As with all strong musical compositions, this work creates expectations that are then thwarted or satisfied, and tensions that are released. It is strikingly expressive that what initially sounds so atonal in long sections of dissonance dissolve (or should I say resolve?) into unisons, a derivation direct from Armenian tradition. Extreme rhythmic ambiguity (rooted perhaps in melisma, improvisation, and speech) is achieved through constantly changing subdivisions, ties, syncopations, and some mixed meters. Just as the dissonances clear to consonance, so do rhythms move between unisons and interesting, confusing layers.

This quintet is about fourteen minutes in duration and consists of two movements: a Moderato that includes some 32nd notes (predominantly in the top voices, with none in the horn part) and an Allegretto-Andantino, also with 32nd notes. The writing for each voice has disjunct lines, and dramatic register changes and dynamics. The last few minutes of the piece feature multiphonics in all parts. Because I had an opportunity to actually read through this quintet, I can vouch that the multiphonics sound very colorful and effective. While some of the value of this work lies in its universal expressions of contrast, I believe that, with proper preparation for both performers and listeners, it could also stimulate a fresh intellectual curiosity about an ancient and unique musical culture that was so long obstructed by the Iron Curtain. Virginia Thompson, West Virginia University
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Title Annotation:Hiroshi Hoshina's Miko Dance for horn and orchestra
Author:Thompson, Virginia
Publication:The Horn Call
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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