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Reviews: Cantus - KUNIKO

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Polly Nomial August 26, 2013
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by Jonalogic August 21, 2013 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
All in all, I regret to say I found this disc rather overhyped and ultimately a bit disappointing. On the plus side, there is some great minimalist music here; Kuniko's playing is - as ever - subtle, austere and hypnotic.


1) Percussion transcriptions are not necessarily the right way to hear the Part pieces, in my opinion. They certainly don't add anything to the piano or piano/violin originals, and don't allow anything like the range of expressive effects possible with more 'traditional' orchestration.

2) The sound. This really, really does not work at all in stereo, which 95%+ of listeners will be using. Despite its 24/192 provenance, it all sounds oppressively close and flat to me, with a bare minimum of room sound.

3) The use of only one percussion instrument type for each piece, and only two throughout the entire recording, can make the sound world seem rather drab and monotonous.

So, no transients or timbres bouncing off the walls and ceilings in this one! In fact, there is very little sense of an acoustic space at all. Just a giant vibraphone or marimba stretching from one speaker to another. This is most most un-Linn like, of course: in fact, it was recorded in Japan for them. A pity, as their normal Hobbs/Finesplice team would have produced a far more natural recording.

This SACD sounds as if it may have been balanced to place MCH listeners in the percussion set. A strange decision - give me the superior focus, air, timbral accuracy and acoustic sense of a slightly more distanced recording, any day.

So, great if you like jamming your head up a marimba or vibraphone*. Otherwise - and particularly if you're a stereo listener - beware.

I suspect this one will polarise opinions. Caveat emptor.

All in all, therefore, seekers of the Part pieces may remain best served by the excellent and half-price recording on Brilliant Classics- Arvo Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel - Hudson, Klinger, Kruse

* After all, let's face it, who hasn't tried this at least once when they thought nobody was looking?

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Review by February 16, 2014
Performance:   Sonics:    
This release from Linn Records is far off the main streets. Kuniko Kata has made interpretations of Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and Hywel Davies.

Kuniko Kata was born in Japan, but moved to Europe during training. She received her primary education 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 first release on Linn Records. In 2011 the label released Kunko 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.

The music on Cantus.
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!

This review was originally written and published by me in the website

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