Tanka for Aki Takahashi

Garrett Sholdice

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A tanka is a type of Japanese poem. Tan means “short”, and ka means “song”. A tanka always has the same structure: five lines, the first and third of which contain five syllables, the second, fourth and fifth of which contain seven syllables. A tanka should describe its subject completely, despite its brevity.

The pianist Aki Takahashi introduced me to the tanka form when I had the privilege of working with her during a festival in Dublin in 2007. Her artistry continues to astonish me, in particular the exquisite subtlety of her touch and the heightened concentration she brings to her performances. I’m always seeking out that kind of concentration in my work, and I always want it for my audiences.

This piece is structured in the manner of a tanka. There are five phrases: the first and fifth contain five bars and the others contain seven bars. The subject here is the ghost of the opening theme of the second movement of Franz Schubert’s B flat major piano sonata, D960 (a work that Aki Takahashi performs with great insight). The five-bar phrases present a gossamer echo of this theme, the seven-bar phrases make up a gentle halo of resonance.

The piece was composed whilst I was composer-in-residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, in Spring 2011. Aki Takahashi gave the piece its premiere on 11 December 2011 in Tsukuba Nova Hall, Tokyo.

(Note by Garrett Sholdice, 2011)

Subtitle: Prelude #5