Takemitsu - Litany10:02

Takemitsu - Litany


Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) was a Japanese composer who wrote for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo works, and film. Takemitsu ‘s works draw from traditional Japanese music as well as western composers such as Debussy, Messiaen and John Cage. His works often incorporate the use of silence and tone coloring (combinations of harmony within various different registers.)

Litany is a two movement work for solo piano from 1989. When listening to this work it is important pay attention to the sonorities found in each chord and how they help paint an overall harmonic picture.


At first glance Litany can seem confusing to someone who is not accustomed to the music of Toru Takemitsu, however, there are a few examples that help define Takemitsu’s style.

The first thing that helps identify Takemitsu’s music would be notation. Cross staff beaming as well as how ties are used between notes.

Second, in Litany, from first few measure to mn, 6, the pitch content used may seem more dissonant than it actually is. Listening to the opening few bars, Litany is held together melodically through the change in pitch collection. (reminiscent of Messiaen)

The next observation that can help point to Takemitsu is his use of fermatas in this work. The first movement of Litany takes on a phrase like structure to allow for more expression.

These all combined help point towards Takemitsu as the composer.


I would like to compare Litany to Alfred Schnittke’s (1934-1998) piano concerto from 1979.

The first difference to examine between the two would be their piano writing.

Schnittke’s writing seems very classically oriented. Knowing Schnittke is a Russian composer obvious influence from Shostakovich can be seen from Schnittke’s use of triads as well as harmonic voicings of chords.
Hamelin plays Schnittke - Concerto for piano and strings Audio Sheet music23:04

Hamelin plays Schnittke - Concerto for piano and strings Audio Sheet music

Schnittke’s use of rhythm also points to a Russian influence whereas Takemitsu is very spacious.

In short Takemitsu has French influence while Schnittke borrows heavily from his Russian roots.


I selected Litany because it is one of my favorite Takemitsu pieces outside of his works for guitar. Also, I enjoy the harmonic coloring found throughout the work.

Work CitedEdit

"Hamelin plays Schnittke - Concerto for piano and strings Audio + Sheet music " YouTube video, 23:02. Posted by "madlovba3" upload May 31, 2012. video.

"Takemitsu - Litany "YouTube video, 10:01. Posted by "musicaignotus" upload November 1, 2009. video.

the Guardian. "A guide to Toru Takemitsu's music | Music |" Last modified February 11, 2013.

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