Dai Fujikura and his little box of tricks

Fujikura Portrait, Wigmore Hall, 17.2.18

A protégé of Pierre Boulez and George Benjamin, the Japanese-born composer Dai Fujikura has long been a favourite with British avant-garde musicians, thanks to his games with everything from timbre, texture, and musical structure to mundanities like orchestral seating. Now forty, he has been given the accolade of a Wigmore ‘portrait’ in which to lay out his multi-instrumental wares, and he came on like a little boy with a box of tricks.

Some worked, some didn’t. There seemed absolutely no point in the whimsical 100-note piece he had written for a New York ensemble which specialises in pieces of that length, nor was there much point in the double-bass solo which explored some not very interesting effects. ‘Milliampere for solo toy piano’ came over as noodling, as did ‘Sakana for solo saxophone’. It was a bit sad that of the four solo piano pieces we got, the two he had written twenty years ago at college (beautifully played by Mei Yi Foo) were infinitely more interesting than the two premiered here.

On the other hand, the six-piece suite for the unlikely combination of piano, clarinet, oboe, horn, and bassoon was a brilliantly varied tour de force, and the restrained and subtle shamisen solo – designed to evoke the effect of a guitar in a rock concert – brought a beguilingly authentic whiff of Japan.

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