Four Bagatellen (1961)

Basic Information
Japanese 4つのバガテル
German Vier Bagatellen
Opus 003
Year 1961
Category Chamber
Duration 7 min.
Instruments vn, pf
Score information
Ongaku no Tomo Music Publisher
Address Shinjuku-ku Kagurazaka 6-30
J-162-8716 Tokyo
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About this Work

Maki Ishii, 1994. Source: CD "Works by Maki Ishii V", Fontec FOCD3194.

I composed this work in 1961 when I was studying in the Department of Composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and in the process of receiving a thorough grounding in the principles of dodecaphony from Josef Rufer, the celebrated pupil and assistant of Arnold Schönberg, originator of the twelve-tone technique. Perhaps reflecting my conditions at this time, the four very brief movements of which this work consists were composed strictly in line with the serialist principles of Schönberg and Webern.

But what surprised even me as I listened to the first performance of this work was that the sound of the music somehow seemed to evoke Japan, something I had not remotely envisaged when I was composing the work. This is spite of it having been written in accordance with twelve-tone technique, a technique which had emerged within the historic evolution of Western music, in other words in accordance with a rigorous technique of contemporary Western origin. Much later, a Japanese critic described the violin phrases in the high register in the final movement of the work as bringing to mind "the penetrating sound of the ryūteki flute (in the Gagaku ensemble)". It now seems to me possible that the sound of Gagaku heard when I was a young child may have lodged in my subconscious to reemerge, unaware at the time to me, in this piece.

First performance: July 1961 / Berlin, Haus am Waldsee
Performers: Takaya Urakawa, violin, Rie Okamura, piano