Tōru Takemitsu: Mori no naka de (In the Woods)
German-born American painter Cornelia Foss (b. 1931) has works in the leading art museums in the US and specializes in paintings and portraits done around New York and Long Island. Her 2006 painting, Wainscott Pond, depicts an ocean-side pond in Wainscot, New York, out on the end of Long Island.
The landscape depicts the flat terrain of the area, historically used for potato or corn fields. The area was settled by English immigrants in the early 18th century and Wainscott is named after the village in Kent, England, where many people came from.
Foss has painted Wainscott Pond for over half a century, and her work shows the pond in different lights, from different angles, and at different times of the year. In the first picture, you can see the dunes that separate the pond from the sea.
Her work inspired the Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu (1930–1996) in writing his last work for guitar, an instrument he was fond of. At the end of his life, he became fascinated with the sea, creating a 3-note motive (E-flat – E – A) or in German (Es – E -A) to set the basis for his ‘tonal sea’. His final work, written from his hospital bed, Mori no naka de (In the Woods) uses water images.
The first movement, Wainscot Pond (after a painting by Cornelia Foss) was dedicated to the guitarist John Williams. The rippling and reflective movement of the water is carried through the guitar line.
Tōru Takemitsu: Mori no naka de (In the Woods) – I. Wainscot Pond (after a painting by Cornelia Foss) (Shin-ichi Fukuda, guitar)
The second movement, Rosedale, is dedicated to the Japanese guitarist Kyoshi Shomura, who gave the premieres of and performed many of Takemitu’s guitar works. It has been described as ‘a trek uphill and downhill in scintillating light.’
Tōru Takemitsu: Mori no naka de (In the Woods) – II. Rosedale (Shin-ichi Fukuda, guitar)
The final movement, Muir Woods, is dedicated to the guitarist Julian Bream. It is this final movement that takes Takemitsu to his beloved sea. He starts on the California coast in the mighty and ancient redwood forests of Muir Woods, he meets a whale that plunges into the sea only to emerge off the coast of Spain and then leaves a fading whirlpool as it dives again to return to the depths of the sea.
Tōru Takemitsu: Mori no naka de (In the Woods) – III. Muir Woods (Shin-ichi Fukuda, guitar)
The première of Wainscot Pond, performed by Norio Sato, took place at the funeral service for Tōru Takemitsu in Tokyo on 29 February 1996 and Julian Bream gave the first performance of Muir Woods in London on 4 October 1996. The work in its entirety, including Rosedale, was first played by Kiyoshi Shomura in Tokyo on 15 October 1996.
We don’t know which of Foss’ many Wainscott Pond paintings gave inspiration to Takemitsu, but the end result is a beautiful and thoughtful reflection on music and nature.
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