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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima has moved many to write music.
Takemitsu: Music to the film Black Rain
Black Rain is a novel by Ibuse Masuji that was made into a film in 1989 by Imamura Shohei. The score is by composer Takemitsu Toru.
Ohki Masao: Symphony No. 5 “Hiroshima”
Perhaps the earliest classical music to engage the bombing in Japan is Ohki’s Symphony No. 5.
Hosokawa: Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima
A major orchestral work (1989 / rev. 2001) by a native of Hiroshima.
This version of the piece (under the title Hiroshima Requiem) features testimony readings, recordings, sirens and explosions in an apocalyptic musical recreation of 6 August.
Dan: Symphony No. 6 “Hiroshima”
Another symphony by Japanese composer Dan Ikuma.
Fujikura: “Akiko’s Piano” Piano Concerto No. 4.
A concerto inspired by the story of a hibaku piano. It is performed here as part of a peace concert by the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, which commissioned the piece as part of its Music for Peace programme.
Penderecki: Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
It is a challenging piece of music to listen to, but that is undoubtedly what Penderecki intended.
Other pieces by non-Japanese composers that are about Hiroshima or include movements about Hiroshima include: Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man.
Samuragochi/Niigaki: Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima”
And finally … This piece was overcome by controversy when it was revealed in 2014 that rather than Samuragochi Mamoru being the “Japanese Beethoven”, as the Japanese media had built him up to be, much of Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima” was ghost-written by Niigaki Takashi (see the documentary film “Fake”). In complete contrast to all the above pieces, this piece is tonal, even neoromantic in style, with strong elements of Bruckner and Shostakovich. It was also a huge commercial success, resulting in both major tours and a best-selling CD.
This complex scandal raised many issues: Why did a second generation hibakusha perpetrate such a fraud? Could the piece really honour Hiroshima victims when it was built on a lie? But the scandal also embarrassed the music industry and media. They had been caught out selling a hyped-up story about a deaf hibakusha composer’s masterpiece about Hiroshima, but is this sort of narrative the only way to market tonal classical music these days?
The music is what it is. Have a listen.
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