A Japanese Journey: Songs by 19th and early 20th century Japanese poets and composers sung in Japanese - Charlotte de Rothschild, soprano
“A Japanese Journey – Nihon no tabiji” reflects the fact that over the last twenty years, I have spent many months touring Japan through all the varied seasons and have travelled to its many different areas. I have been lucky enough to glimpse the hidden Japan away from the vast cities and to sense the true culture and history of the land. To an outsider, it might appear that a Japanese person will seldom show their real feelings but these songs must surely confirm their ability to have emotions, covering the wide range from a child’s simple wonder of a red dragonfly to the remembrance of a first love. As in the great Schubert songs, so these strophic songs hide a depth of meaning and one has to peel away each layer of the poems and music to discover their centre. An album of all-Japanese traditional songs is not an unusual thing for a Japanese artist to do in Japan, but the fact that I am a forigner may give them a different slant. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed recording them with the help of the wonderful Masahiro Saitoh as accompanist.
Charlotte de Rothschild
Allow me to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for your virtuoso performance during your latest tour of Japan after eight long-awaited years. I say this not only on behalf of the Min-On Concert Association, but also as an aficionado of musical culture. Many of those who attended your Bouquet of Flower Songs Concert expressed wholehearted agreement, delighting in your heavenly voice. One such fan described your performance as uplifting as “a refreshing breeze ushering in spring.”
Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, Founder, Min-On Concert Association
"A pleasant, indeed quite captivating curiosity; Japanese art songs of 19/20 C which are entirely in a westernised tonal idiom of the past, although some of the composers are possibly still alive (the disc was recorded in 1999 and has to wait until 2012 to appear in an British catalogue. There is little to distinguish individual composers in these songs about love, nature and all the usual romantic topics. What does distinguish it is a lovely soprano voice in perfect control, well accompanied and engineered in Forde Abbey, Somerset. Charlotte de Rothschild has performed and reccorded widely, and has toured in Japan extensively." Musical Opinions
“Upon hearing the very first song I was enthralled by Charlotte’s singing…she conveys the very essence of the music. One wonders where she obtained such intimate feelings which seem, at times stronger than those possessed by many contemporary Japanese." Ryohsuke Hatanaka. Music Critic, Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University of Fine Art and Music
"The quality is one of wistfulness, oddly reminiscent of Scottish or Irish ballads, which translates into a feeling of subtle depth and sometimes heart-rending beauty. The last song on the disc, the unlikely-sounding 'Coconuts', is a gorgeous specimen. The poems themselves are of a fundamentally Romantic ilk, concerning eternal themes like nature, unrequited love, homesickness and the happy past. Many Japanese songs, in fact, are predominantly gentle, reflecting the culture of politeness and privacy that has long dominated Japanese society.
Rothschild has an attractive voice. In her mid-forties when these recordings were made, she may well be at the height of her powers, possessing great control over range, dynamics and above all emotion. Native reviews of this recording indicate that Rothschild's Japanese pronunciation is very good, ditto her understanding of the Japanese psyche - to her credit, she has spent a good amount of time in Japan, touring again indeed in 2011 and 2012. Within the parameters set by the composers, Masahiro Saitoh's piano playing is marvellously expressive, with an impressive attention to fine shadings." –Byzantion, Musicweb-international.com, August 2012
Rothschild likes Japanese songs from early time and, not to mention the time when she visits Japan, but in her own country, in UK, she does not spare the effort to convey the beauty of the Japanese songs. Mostly every time she visits Japan, I have been hearing the Japanese songs that she sings, she never disappoints me but this time was even more polished. Actually, when one closes his eyes and listens to her voice, one will think it is the singing voice of the Japanese singer. Words and music are not superficial and the heart of the songs were caught deeply and even the meaning hid between the lines were expressed in the songs. ‘Torreya nuts’ and ‘Winter stove’ by Yamada Kosaku and ‘Setting sail’ were among them and especially ‘Setting sail’ was excellent. Of course, she sang fully and wonderfully the songs from her own country. ‘Where the bee sucks’ by Arne, ‘A stoirin ban’ by Larchet,’Fairy Tailor’ by Head were sang delicately with an exquisite voice control and drew me in the dreamy feeling. For the season, she sang some Christmas songs. ‘Corpus Christi carol’ by Britten, ‘The first Mercy’ by Warlock were filled with pious feelings. ‘The Jewel Song’ from ‘Faust’ by Gounod was excellent, fully expressed the woman's feeling that is blinded by a jewel, and very happy. Both her voice and her skill were wonderful and excellent. (Dec.11th. at Hamarikyu Asahi Hall) Akira Koyama