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 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 9:20 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

In 1963, the NHK broatcasting network aired its first Taiga Drama -- A long form historical drama about figures from Japanese history. It was scored by Isao Tomita, and since then there's been a new Taiga Drama every year, often featuring fantastic music by some very impressive Japanese composers, and even one Italian fellow.

Since 1963, there have been 47 Taiga Dramas to date:

1963: Hana no Shogai (Isao Tomita)
1964: Ako Roshi (Yasushi Akutagawa)
1965: Taikoki (Yoshiro Irino)
1966: Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Toru Takemitsu)
1967: San Shimai (Masaru Satô)
1968: Ryoma ga Yuku (Michio Mamiya)
1969: Ten to Chi to (Isao Tomita)
1970: Mominoki wa Nokotta (Yoda Mitsumasa)
1971: Haru no Sakamichi (Akira Miyoshi)
1972: Shin Heike Monogatari (Isao Tomita)
1973: Kunitori Monogatari (Hikaru Hayashi)
1974: Katsu Kaishu (Isao Tomita)
1975: Genroku Taiheiki (Joji Yuasa)
1976: Kaze to Kumo to Niji to (Naozumi Yamamoto)
1977: Hanashin (Hikaru Hayashi)
1978: Ogon no Hibi (Shinichiro Ikebe)
1979: Kusa Moeru (Joji Yuasa)
1980: Shishi no Jidai (Ryudo Uzaki)
1981: Onna Taikoki (Koichi Sakata)
1982: Toge no Gunzo (Shinichiro Ikebe)
1983: Tokugawa Ieyasu (Isao Tomita)
1984: Sanga Moyu (Hikaru Hayashi)
1985: Haru no Nami (Masaru Satô)
1986: Inochi (Koichi Sakata)
1987: Dokunganryu Masamune (Shinichiro Ikebe)
1988: Takeda Shingen (Naozumi Yamamoto)
1989: Kasuga no Tsubone (Koichi Sakata)
1990: Tobuga Gotoku (Toshi Ichiyanagi)
1991: Taiheiki (Shigeaki Saegusa)
1992: Nobunaga (Kurodo Mori)
1993: Ryukyu no Kaze (Jun Nagao)
1993: Homura Tatsu (Yoshihiro Kanno)
1994: Hana no Ran (Shigeaki Saegusa)
1995: Hachidai Shogun Yoshimune (Shinichiro Ikebe)
1996: Hideyoshi (Reijiro Koroku)
1997: Mori Motonari (Toshiyuki Watanabe)
1998: Tokugawa Yoshinobu (Joji Yuasa)
1999: Genroku Ryoran (Shinichiro Ikebe)
2000: Aoi ~Tokugawa Sandai~ (Taro Iwashiro)
2001: Hojo Tokimune (Kazuki Kuriyama)
2002: Toshiie to Matsu (Toshiyuki Watanabe)
2003: Musashi (Ennio Morricone)
2004: Shinsengumi! (Takayuki Hattori)
2005: Yoshitsune (Taro Iwashiro)
2006: Komyo ga Tsuji (Reijiro Koroku)
2007: Furin Kazan (Akira Senju)
2008: Atsu-hime (Ryo Yoshimata)
2009: Tenchijin (No one yet as far as I know. Fingers crossed for Michiru Oshima or—dare I dream?—Joe Hisaishi)

Sadly most of the early Taiga scores have never seen a true soundtrack release. There is however a great two-disc set featuring the main themes from the first 35 Taiga Dramas, as well as a good amount of score from Reijiro Koroku's Hideyoshi.

It's a fantastic collection that no fan of Japanese composers would want to be without, but I still long for a CD release of some of these shows containing a little more than the main theme. Thankfully many of the more recent Taigas have received their own soundtrack releases, starting with 1991's Taiheki.

So, any other Taiga music fans out there?

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 9:24 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Taiheki (1991)

Taiga Drama #29

Composer: Shigeaki Saegusa

Don't let the somewhat lame cover fool you, this score is a dramatic powerhouse. Opening with rumbling percussion and the eerie strains of the hichiriki, the music then erupts into a furiously driving brass theme backed by chopping strings. It's a fantastic theme, and one of my favorites from any Taiga score. For the score proper, Saegusa alternates between lush srting writing and more variations on that great theme. There are some very nice running times on most of the tracks as well, with four of the nine tracks clocking in at nearly eight minutes apiece, really letting the music breathe. The almost thirteen minute long seventh track really benifits from this treatment.

Availability: Unfortunately, this CD is long out of print and rather difficult to come by, but if you ever happen to stumble across a copy, then by all means grab it! You will not be disappointed.

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 9:41 PM   
 By:   MikeJ   (Member)

Oh, this sounds like a big slobberfest...

While this one is not an NHK Drama, Saegusa's music for the Gundam film CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK is also very impressive.

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 9:45 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Oh you can bet I started buying his Gundam scores right after hearing Taiheki. Haven't gotten to Char's Counterattack yet though. Still looking for a good price on Z Gundam vol. 2.

He also seems to have done quite a few concert works, which I definitely plan to check out.

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 9:49 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Hana no Ran (1994)

Taiga Drama #33

Composer: Shigeaki Saegusa

Saegusa's second Taiga score is quite a bit different from his previous one. The fury of the Taiheki theme has been replaced with a slowly unfolding piano theme, that builds to a spectacular climax. The score itself features a fair amount of synth this time, but I find it actually works quite well, especially in the action cues. In addition to the returning hichiriki, Saegusa also adds in a favorite instrument of mine—the shamisen. Lots of nice solo string work in this one as well, and boy does he ever give that main theme a workout! No incredibly long cues this time out, but with 34 tracks, the disc still runs over an hour, and Saegusa definitely proves that if you give him thirty seconds, he'll give you some great stuff.

Availability: Once again, this CD is out of print, though I don't believe it's quite as rare as Taiheki just yet. Still worth the hunt as far as I'm concerned.

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 10:22 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1998)

Taiga Drama #37

Composer: Joji Yuasa

The only one of Yuasa's Taiga scores to recieve an individual release so far, his score is probably on first listen not as readily appreciated as Saegusa's entries. With 61 tracks averaging just over a minute apiece, there are no major standout highlights here, but rather 74 minutes of very ably composed underscore. I really like his use of marimba and wood blocks in many of the cues. If you're patient with the score you may find yourself rewarded.

Availability: Out of print, but used copies occasionaly show up for good prices in the Amazon Japan marketplace. That's where I got mine.

 Posted:   Apr 4, 2008 - 11:15 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Genroku Ryoran (1999)

Taiga Drama #38

Composer: Shinichiro Ikebe

By the time he scored Genroku Ryoran, Ikebe was certainly no stranger to Taiga dramas, having scored four others in previous years. Ikebe's theme is a bit more lighthearted than most Taiga themes, but still good and catchy. The score is another solid entry in the Taiga series as well. The light tone does permeate many of the cues, but there's a great moment when a minute into the fifth track, he busts out the Four-Note Danger-Motif™ and the remainder of the track is all suspenseful string music. I highly doubt it was intentional, but I sure get a big kick out of it!

Availability: Yup, out of print.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 12:02 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Aoi ~Tokugawa Sandai~ (2000)

Taiga Drama #39

Composer: Taro Iwashiro

Now this one's a favorite of mine, and featuring some pretty sweet guest artists to boot. Charles Dutoit conducts three of the CD's seven tracks, including two versions of the main theme, as well as what may be my single favorite track from any Taiga score, the eleven minute Time of Ambition. This one track takes up over a quarter of the disc's running time, and is definitely the highlight for me. The last two minutes feature a repeating horn phrase over a drum cadence that just keeps building and building, leading to a great finish. It's this one track more than any other that has me looking forward to Iwashiro's score to John Woo's upcoming Battle of Red Cliff.

Davy Spillane's pipes and whistles appear on two cues. The lovely Time of Mercy, which also features some nice acoustic guitar and solo piano work. The second cue Spillane contributes to is the final version of the main theme, which is used to close out the disc.

Availability: Out of print.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 12:38 AM   
 By:   MikeJ   (Member)

I have the Onimusha 2 Orchestra album from Iwashiro and really enjoy it. Do you think I'd like this Iwashiro score, too?

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 1:04 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Hmm. Well, his score to Aoi is much lighter on the action than his Onimusha music, mostly consisting of variations of the main theme and some string quartet pieces. For the Onimusha fan, I'd recommend his score to Ryuhei Kitamura's Azumi (co-composed with Hideyuki Fukasawa) before anything else.

Azumi is, incidentally, my favorite Iwashiro score, as well as being one of my favorite scores of the last decade.

And I really hope that if Christophe Gans ever gets his Onimusha movie made, he'll be smart enough to hire the team of Iwashiro and Fukasawa to score it. Hell, between them they did score two games in the series!

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 1:07 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Hojo Tokimune (2001)

Taiga Drama #40

Composer: Kazuki Kuriyama

Audio Clips:

I think Kuriyama may just take the award for "Most in your face Taiga theme" with this one. He manages to bring together quite a few disparate ideas for this score as well. There's shrieking female vocals, hichiriki, Korean piri, Mongolian Höömi singing, and even a bit of lounge piano and few electronic beats thrown in for good measure. Historically appropriate? Hell no. A good listen? I like to think so!

Availability: In print. Available wherever finer Japanese CDs are sold.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 2:19 AM   
 By:   Fifloe   (Member)

He also seems to have done quite a few concert works, which I definitely plan to check out.

Highly recommended: the Do-CDs (a) "Four Concertos" (Violin, Cello, Piano, Sangen, Bonus-Track: Main theme from "Hana No Ran") and (b) "Oratorio Yamamto Takeru (a powerful concert work for chorus and orchestra) also a good find (even this CD is very difficult to get): his completion of Mozart's KV.320e.

About the NHK epic drama main themes, by the way they are also available on DVD:

(Main themes 1963 - 1983)

(Main themes 1984 - 2002)

EDIT: please could you tell me how to post pictures, thanks

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 2:26 AM   
 By:   CindyLover   (Member)

Interesting thread! Many thanks...

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 2:32 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Interesting thread! Many thanks...

You're welcome. It's one I've thought about doing for awhile. I love these scores.

Jürgen, to post images, you need to be sure to remove the "http://" from the link and write the img tags in lower case.

It should look like this:

[ img ][ /img ]

only without the spaces inside the brackets. Hope that helps.

And I'll definitely have to try and hunt down those Saegusa concert works. Any idea if his requiem is any good?

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 2:41 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Toshiie to Matsu (2002)

Taiga Drama #41

Composer: Toshiyuki Watanabe

Toshiyuki Watanabe is probably best known around here for his Rebirth of Mothra scores, which are pretty good, but for me, Toshiie to Matsu leaves them in the dust. That main theme is just phenomenal! Conducted by Hiroyuki Iwaki and featuring performances by both the NHK Symphony and the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, the score also features some beautiful violin solos by Daishin Kashimoto.

I have to wonder if Watanabe is a fan of Westerns, too. On track 7 there's a theme reminiscent of something out of Wyatt Earp, which then segues into a Broughton-styled flute line. It's really pretty neat, but even cooler is track 8, which starts out with a touch of Poledouris before launching into a very Kamen-like fanfare.

The next two tracks are probably the most bittersweet on the album, and therefore my favorites. The final track of the album features another lovely violin solo -- a great way to end the disc.

Availability: In print, so go get it.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 3:09 AM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Musashi (2003)

Taiga Drama #42

Composer: Ennio Morricone

Audio Clips (vol. 1):

Audio Clips (vol. 2):

Finally, a composer more than twelve people on the board will have heard of! Morricone is to date the only non-Japanese composer to score a Taiga drama, and it's of course no surprise that his score is fantastic. You guys really don't need me to tell you how good Morricone is, so I'll just say that some of my favorite cues are the pan pipe led Musashi e l'Amicizia and the intesne Musashi attacca. I love those repeating strings and the stuff he throws in there to keep that cue interesting for the full six minutes. The choral version of Musashi's theme that closes volume 2 is another favorite.

Availability: Volume 1 is still in print in Japan (and I believe there was a release in Spain as well) but it looks like the Musashi Encore!! disc has fallen out of print. I don't believe it's too hard to find at the moment, but that will surely change with time.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 7:42 AM   
 By:   Fifloe   (Member)

Jürgen, to post images... Hope that helps.

Definitely, thanks.

And I'll definitely have to try and hunt down those Saegusa concert works. Any idea if his requiem is any good?

I did not listen to the requiem for a long time but it is a good one even personally I prefer the other Saegusa concert CDs I did mention. The requiem closes with a beautiful "Sajonara" performed by the chorus.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 7:43 AM   
 By:   Fifloe   (Member)

Jürgen, to post images... Hope that helps.

Definitely, thanks.

And I'll definitely have to try and hunt down those Saegusa concert works. Any idea if his requiem is any good?

I did not listen to the requiem for a long time but it is a good one even personally I prefer the other Saegusa concert CDs I did mention. The requiem closes with a beautiful "Sajonara" performed by the chorus.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 3:27 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Shinsengumi! (2004)

Taiga Drama #43

Composer: Takayuki Hattori

Audio Clips (vol. 1):

Audio Clips (vol. 2):

Hattori really blew me away last year with his wonderful score to Karei naru Ichizoku, and his score to Shinsengumi! is yet another solid effort. The main theme is upbeat and catchy, featuring some operatic vocals by John Ken Nuzzo. At first I was a bit put off by them, but they've really grown on me with repeated listens. Hattori doesn't really work the title theme into his score very much at all, though there is a very nice solo piano version of it about halfway through the first disc. He does craft a few other slightly less memorable themes for use throughout the score, but often he'll eschew even those in favor of less thematic moody orchestral writing. There's a certain nobeleness to this music that sticks with you though, even if many of the themes themselves don't linger in the mind.

Availability: Both volumes still in print.

 Posted:   Apr 5, 2008 - 4:56 PM   
 By:   Squiddybop   (Member)

Yoshitsune (2005)

Taiga Drama #44

Composer: Taro Iwashiro

Audio Clips:

Iwashiro's second Taiga score opens with what has to be one of the best themes I've ever heard from him. Conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, those swirling strings never fail to give me goosebumps. The rest of the score consists primarily of two themes, the four Lyric at Night passages feature an elegiac theme performed by a different soloist (soprano, piano, flügelhorn, and jinghu) in each cue. Breaking up these lyric tracks are two slow and meditative string hymns. On the whole, this is actually quite a peaceful album for most of its running time, before closing with an eight-minute extended treatment of the main title theme.

Availabilty: In print.

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