Maki Ishii Live

Ryan Scott, percussion

Esprit Orchestra

Alex Pauk, conductor

Innova 809


Maki Ishii

1.         Saidoki            13:45

2.         Concertante     20:18

3.         South – Fire – Summer           18:04

Total: 51:57


This recording is another brilliant example of the truism that the work of a composer only lives through his artists. We commend Ryan Scott and the Esprit Orchestra for creating an amazing and beautiful performance in which the musical universe of our late husband and father Maki Ishii lives on. This most certainly is an important contribution to the recorded repertoire of his works.

– June 2011, the heirs of Maki Ishii


Maki Ishii was born as the third son of Ishii Baku, the pioneer of modern dance in Japan. He is recognized as one of Japan's foremost composers, and his works are frequently performed throughout the world.

Ishii's earliest works show the influence of the avant-garde compositional methods he studied in Tokyo and Berlin. But since he turned his attention to Japanese traditional music in the late 1960s, his creative endeavour has been rooted in the attempt to stride two musical worlds by employing both European compositional method and elements from the sound work of Japanese traditional music in his work.

After studying composition and conducting in Tokyo, Maki Ishii went to Germany in 1958 and continued his studies at the Berlin Academy of Music. Returning to Japan in 1962, he created many new works, working mainly in Tokyo. In 1969 he was invited to participate in the Artists-in-Residence Program of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin. Since then he had been very active as a composer, conductor, and organizer based in both Berlin and Tokyo.

In such works as "So-Gu I" for shakuhachi and piano (1970), "So-Gu II" for gagaku and orchestra (1972), and "Mono-Prism" for Japanese drums and orchestra (1976), he built upon the foundations of his own unique sound world, with Western and Japanese instruments being used in the same temporal and spatial setting.

From the late 1970s on, his creative work became more and more recognized, with many concerts being devoted entirely to his works, such at the Paris Fall Festival in 1978, the Berlin Art Week in 1981, the Maki Ishii Exhibition in Tokyo 1989 and Osaka 1994, and the Maki Ishii Works Collection in The Hague 1992.

Ishii also conducted many of the world's leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Boston Symphony, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, in performances of his works. Particularly successful, both as composer and conductor, has been his two-act ballet "Kaguyahime" -- choreographed by Jiři Kylián for the Nederlands Dans Theater -- throughout Europe and Japan.

Since the mid 1990s, the search for new musical worlds turned his interest towards traditional and modern Chinese music. He composed several works which include Chinese instruments or use Chinese poems. In 1996 and 2002 he organized and conducted the Japan-China Friendship Cooperation Performance of contemporary Japanese orchestral works in Beijing and Shanghai, at the invitation of the Culture Ministry of the People's Republic of China.

Ishii has been the recipient of many awards including the Otaka Prize, the Nakajima Music prize, the German Critics Prize, and the Kyoto Music Award. In 1999 he was decorated with the Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor by the Emperor of Japan.

Maki Ishii died in April 2003 in Japan, age 66. His last work, the symphonic poem "Illusion and Death" was performed posthumously two months later.

1. Saidōki (Demon)

for percussion solo and orchestra

Opus 86 (1989) – Part III of the symphonic linked work "Floating Wind" (1992)

In 1423, the then 61 years old Zeami [Motokiyo] wrote the "Sandō" [Three Elements in Composing in Play], in which he wrote down the foundation of the original -play, for his second son. In it, the following passage can be found:

"The "Saidōfū" style takes roughness as a foundation while one has to crush the body in performing.“

"To perform the demon of the "saidōfū" is to form the outer appearance of a demon with the inner soul of a human."

(Remark: "sai" means "to crush", "" movement, "" is style, "ki" means demon.)

The title of my work "Saidōki" therefore denotes the "ki"-demon of the "Saidō" style. In the percussion solo of my work, the metal percussion are in the center, which with the addition of the wooden (bamboo) percussions creates a peculiar and unique compund sound. When these sounds merge with the sound of the orchestra, the outward "vigorous and rough demon" with an inner "human soul" appears, seeking to create a new sound universe.


2.  Concertante

for Marimba Solo and 6 percussionists Op. 79

It was several years ago that Keiko Abe and Les Percussions de Strasbourg honoured me by asking me to write a work for them to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the ensemble. I am very happy that I have at last managed to respond to their request in the form of the present work, Concertante for Marimba Solo and 6 Percussionists.

As suggested by the title, the marimba and the ensemble perform together in a relationship which, as manifested in rhythm and tone colour, is sometimes antagonistic and sometimes harmonious.  Nevertheless, the sonic and dynamic structure of the work contains new elements not present within the conventional concept of the concertante form. The core of the work is formed by two principal elements, namely the clash between indeterminate and determinate rhythms, and the fusion between metallic, silvery tone colours in the Western manner and wooden tone colours in the East Asian manner.

I have dedicated this Concertante to Keiko Abe, the radiant founder of the contemporary art of marimba performance, and Les Percussions de Strasbourg, the ensemble which has played a crucial and pioneering role in spreading percussion music all over the world.


3. Percussion Concerto "South - Fire - Summer"
for percussion solo and orchestra (1992), Op.95

Percussion instruments assume widely differing characteristics depending on how they are played.

In this concerto I have striven after the enormous diversity which is a feature of percussion instruments and especially of the marimba; making transcendental technical demands of the performer, I have pursued areas such as the unique sound world of percussion instruments and the idea of acoustic accumulation, the dynamism of the marimba, and rhythmic transformation in the writing for the drums. I have then pitted the solo percussion part against the orchestra to give expression to a new world of sound.

The concept of physical direction has borne a close relationship with musical order in Japanese traditional music. A musical treatise known as the Kangen Ongi, dating from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) goes into this question in detail. South, fire, and summerthe three elements which constitute the subtitle of this work – and the traditional Japanese scale of ōshiki-chō on which the acoustic material of my work is based are treated in the Kangen Ongi as metonyms for the direction of south. Furthermore, E flat, D, E, F, and B – the constituent pitches of a motif which plays an important role in the workare taken from German pitch names which appear in the German and English forms of the subtitle, i.e. süd, feuer, sommersouth, fire, summer.

This percussion concerto thus employs a combination of western motif-based compositional technique and eastern directional concepts, and it is through this combination that I have attempted to provide the work with its internal acoustic shading. I have striven after a new and unified sense of musical order and harmony through the incorporation of elements and formal techniques associated with the music of both East and West.

– Notes by Maki Ishii


Ryan Scott

Critically acclaimed percussionist Ryan Scott is one of Canada's most illustrious and esteemed musicians of his generation. On this CD are his first performances and the North American premieres of the Ishii concerti, played from memory and recorded live in performance by CBC Radio 2.

In addition to his work as a regular guest artist with NEXUS, Principal Percussionist of the Esprit Orchestra and percussionist in the Canadian Opera Company (since 1996), Ryan Scott is also a sought-after soloist, chamber musician, and teacher.  A core member of Continuum Contemporary Music (founded 1985), he also serves as co-artistic director.  He performs regularly with Soundstreams Canada, New Music Concerts, The Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, The Bob Becker Ensemble, ArpaTambora and Toronto New Music Projects, with whom he has presented recitals focusing on the music of Franco Donatoni, Philippe Leroux, Giaconto Scelsi and Stefan Wolpe.

Highlights of his concerto repertoire include North American premieres of Concertante for Marimba, South Fire Summer and Saidoki by Maki Ishii, Doppelkonzert by Unsuk Chin, and a commissioned work, Concerto for Marimba by Erik Ross with the Esprit Orchestra.  Additionally, he has appeared as soloist with The National Arts Centre Orchestra, The Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Orchestra, The Austin Symphony, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and Amici Strings.

Ryan has performed in over 200 world premieres; of which over 25 he has commissioned with the generous assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts, The Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council and the Laidlaw Foundation.  Most recent premieres for percussion include works by Canadian composers Norma Beecroft, Michael Colgrass, Peter Hatch, Christos Hatzis, Michael Oesterle, Bruce Mather and Andrew Staniland.  He has also collaborated with Thomas Ades, Pierre Boulez, George Crumb, Guus Janssen, Mauricio Kagel, Aaron Jay Kernis, Philippe Leroux, MC Maguire, John Oswald, Steve Reich, Roger Reynolds, James Rolfe, Murray Schafer, Joseph Schwantner, and Gilles Tremblay in the presentation of their works.

Ryan has performed at festivals extensively throughout North America and Europe and also in Japan, Indonesia and South Africa including multiple appearances at Huddersfield, The Fringe, Muziekgebouw aan't IJ, BAM, and as a prominently featured soloist at all of the Cooldrummings International Percussion Festivals in Toronto.

Twice nominated for a Juno, he has recorded over 25 CDs for NAXOS, Artifact, CBC, CMC and Innova recordings.  Select recordings include collaborations with Rivka Golani, Bob Becker, Robert Aitken, Joseph Petric, and a heritage rudimental drum recording titled “Stars and Stripes” with The Canadian Brass and members of NEXUS which reached number two on the Billboard Charts.

Ryan is very grateful to have studied with Russell Hartenberger and Robin Engelman at the University of Toronto where he attained both Bachelor and Masters degrees in Music performance completing his studies in 1997.

Ryan lives in Toronto with his wife, harpist Sanya Eng and their three children.

Esprit Orchestra

Esprit Orchestra is Canada's only full-sized orchestra devoted exclusively to performing and promoting new orchestral music.

Founded in 1983 by Music Director and Conductor Alex Pauk, this innovative Toronto-based orchestra, through its annual subscription concert series, commissions, performs and promotes music by Canadian composers, such as Douglas Schmidt, Chris Paul Harman, R Murray Schafer, John Rea and Ana Sokolovic. The series also features Canadian premieres of music by leading International composers, including Adams, Andriessen, Kurtág, Ligeti, Penderecki, Schnittke, Takemitsu, van der Aa, among many others. Esprit concerts are regularly recorded for broadcast by CBC Radio Two (94.1 FM), making the orchestra's distinctive music available to musical patrons worldwide.

Every season, Alex Pauk and his core 65-member orchestra collaborate with outstanding soloists and ensembles to give audiences spine-tingling performances of contemporary classical music in the acoustically acclaimed Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.

Alex Pauk

Alex Pauk, composer, conductor, educator, entrepreneur, had much to do with revitalizing Canadian orchestral musical life for composers by founding Esprit Orchestra in 1983. Through building and sustaining its high calibre performances, commissioning programme, innovative programming, recordings, education and outreach initiatives,

Pauk has made Esprit a major force for developing and promoting Canadian music at home and abroad. As a conductor he attains performances of the highest caliber on stage and in recordings. He was named Musician of the Year (1999) by peers at the Toronto Musicians’ Association. Pauk’s commissioning, performance and promotion of Canadian music is central to his work with Esprit. The introduction to Canada of significant compositions from abroad is also an important aspect of his activity.

His CBC Records compact discs of Canadian music are an important set in the overall catalogue of CDs in Canada and his work with performing arts filmmaker Larry Weinstein of Rhombus Media have set new standards in the genre. Pauk has been a leader in taking new music out of the concert hall and to people in their communities with performances in alternative locations such as the CN Tower and nightclubs, art galleries and the outdoors.

Alex Pauk has a very wide range of experience as a composer with works for every kind of performing ensemble, the theatre as well as dance companies. He has composed more than sixty works and has both composed for and conducted CBC Vancouver Orchestra, New Music Concerts, Vancouver New Music, Québec Symphony, Hannaford Street Silver Band and the Toronto Symphony. In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize.



Saidoki (Demon) (1989-1992) recorded May 1, 2009; Doug Doctor, engineer

Concertante for Marimba (1988), recorded March 24, 2000;

David “Stretch” Quinney, engineer, Frank Finistauri, Assistant Engineer

Percussionists:  Bill Brennan, Mark Duggan, Paul Houle, Blair Mackay,

Andrew Morris, Trevor Tureski

South-Fire-Summer (1992) recorded May 11, 2008;

Steve Sweeney, engineer, Frank Finistauri, Assistant Engineer

All performances recorded live in Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto, Ontario.

David Jaeger, Producer, Mastering, CBC Radio

Licensed from CBC Records and made possible through the courtesy of CBC Radio Music,

a Division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

© Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Cover and additional photos by Kei Ishii of “Cidelo Ihos” designed by Kazuo Harada and Yasunori Yamaguchi


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations manager