“Takemitsu's work in the final decade of his life was gentle, full of tenderness, sentiment and sighs. But he never entirely discarded the starker beauty of his earlier work. Air distills much of the spirit of his music, evoking the French Impressionists, modernist asceticism and the pared-down elegance of Japanese traditional music and gardens. It was written for flautist Aurèle Nicolet and first played in public by Yasukazu Uemura, but it's hard to imagine Robert Aitken's performance being bettered.
Aitken invited Takemitsu to Canada in 1975 and 1983. From these visits grew a special relationship with the musicians featured on this outstanding album. They performed most of these works for the composer, so we can assume that the interpretations bear the hallmark of authenticity: they sound utterly convincing, with their perfect balance of the technical and the emotional. Itinerant (1989) is a case in point: Takemitsu pictures a garden where vegetable and mineral, motion and stability mingle in precisely designed harmony, yet each visitor's perspective discovers a fresh view.
The programming is as admirable as the playing, surveying Takemitsu's music for small forces from 1971 (Voice, with its references to Noh theatre) to 1995 (Air). From the pastoral, slightly eerie trio for flute, viola and harp AndThen I Knew – devised as a companion-piece to Debussy's 1915 Sonata for the same instruments – and the shimmering, celestial Rain Tree, to Rain Spell, brooding and turbulent in turns, this is yet another excellent 20th-century showcase from Naxos.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010