MIS 我等のテナー◎藤原義江 Warera No Tenor Fujiwara Yoshi (2CD 18-12-2013 B00G5JCF8U)
When I was listening to Japanese music recordings from the 30s I noticed that most tracks showed how much musicians were regarded as low life entertainment folks who themselves did often act like it, not caring too much about the perfect pitches or intonations compared to for instance Korean singers of the same time who felt the need to expressing something extra inside the field of expression of intonation. One singer was immediately noticeable as treating music as a true art form with the ability and sensitivity of western classical singing.
This was the performance of藤原義江/ Yoshie Fujiwara, an Osaka singer whose mother was a geisha biwa-player and his father a Scottish merchant, making him look more western than Japanese. He was adopted but his real father later helped him in his career. In 1934 he established the Fujiwara Opera making him known for his achievements and unique approach.
One of the things I might especially find attractive especially in certain songs is a hidden sadness of not entirely belonging into the era still feeling strong enough to feel deeply connected and renew the whole with his own approach, creating this way the art of fusion, with a depth in intonation, a sadness of the distance felt towards the world, compensated by finding new ways to connect.
The songs are slowed down to a Western style of classical music (Schubert,..), of mostly song with solo piano, mixed with Japanese traditional songs (like in “鐘が鳴ります/ The bell is ringing”). This is the approach, which most often has its most full effect. In songs like this, the strong emotionality heard being expressed in songs like “桜/ Cherry Blossoms” is almost found nowhere else. Of course part of the songs are into the art form that directs towards to opera, film songs or the lighter form of operetta. A few other songs are rooted in the Japanese forms of traditional opera or songs and even a few Japanese children songs were added. Also the lighter songs are sung with as much enthusiasm and convincing power to entertain with true pleasure. Some of the songs are arranged with a complete classical ensemble. I guess some of the tracks were also performed that way as a means to make appreciate western styled classical music, in a fitting performance with a bit more dramatic voice to convince with that. I can’t really judge the included classical music pop hits or how they stand out or not, or how they just simply fit with certain times and approaches. But I guess they are not always the ones to pick out to remember one’s unique qualities in this voice for it, which I still think start to reveal themselves mostly and most easily in the Japanese and fusing with Western influence of Japanese songs. Just a small handful of songs however (on CD2 mostly) come from the war period and of course are much more dated to the war times and are less appreciated outside that era, I still preferred to skip most of them. The full orchestral and more bombastic Verdi-like pieces at the end of CD2 from classical romantic operas are also less my cup of tea.
I am lucky to have found this double CD second hand because these albums are expensive (although still worth the price). I am glad that after all these years we can have a renewed digging into these great moments of musical history. Recommended.
Born: 5-12-1898, Osaka, Osaka, Japan; Died: 22-3-1976, Tokio, Japan
Films: Fujiwara Yoshie no furusato. He never got married in his life.