Joe Hisaishi: Birthday

Context

Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi is known for his experimental style and his huge collection of film soundtracks. Hisaishi has also released a number of solo albums too, which are all unique in their own way. Some explore minimalism, some electronic music, and some classical Japanese musics. His exploratitive style has made him one of the most influential Japanese musicians of our time. 

Birthday, composed for piano and string ensemble, featured on his 2005 album Freedom: Piano Stories 4. Hisaishi took this album on tour and toured with some of the finest Canadian string players. 

 

The Music

Birthday showcases Hisaishi’s more minimalist and tonal styles. Opening with warm string chords, the piano enters with a sweet interlude, which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the work. The peaceful movement and delicate fluctuation of the accompanying hand creates such a serene picture for the listener. The strings enter pizzicato before quickly moving back to arco position to support the ever-developing piano melody. 

The rich textures from the strings and the piano creates a Romantic-esque piece that is full of luscious suspensions and subtle key changes. The piano and strings, although playing separate parts, move very much as a whole in Birthday. The dialogue passed between them is effective and keeps the nostalgic atmosphere alive. 

After a reinstatement of the opening theme, this time led by the strings, Birthday comes to a quiet and delicate end, with just the piano saying the final goodbye before the strings come in for the last chord. 

 

Happy Reading!

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