The presentation is noteworthy (pun intended), as the discs and copious liner notes arrive in an ivory-colored hardbound box. We’re not sure why it took the reviewer at Norman Records five minutes to open it; ours opened easily. Once inside, we started to realize that more than the color was gold. As those leaves begin to turn, we all feel the sense of an ending. The same is true of this set, the last with this current incarnation, whose final concert took place at Tokyo’s St. Mary’s Cathedral on 21 July. Nakamura (piano) is joined by an 8-piece chamber ensemble, the 9-person CANTUS choir and 14-year-old vocalist Urara, and their notes are drenched in a mood of celebratory departure.
Finally one feels a sense of purity. Nakamura has played at Hiroshima’s Memorial Cathedral of World Peace, and his entire output leans toward healing. From the clean packaging to the crisp packaging to the clarity of sound, Hikari is a balm. These have been the last songs I’ve played over the course of many nights over the last month, as the beaches have shut down, the evenings have grown cold, the company has gone home. The music embodies the attitude I desire: not sorrow, but gratitude.
The ensemble must have felt a sense of completion after the release of this collection, two weeks after their final performance. The performers have visited their back catalog, selected their favorite songs, and produced definitive versions of each. They’ve shared these songs at sold-out performances. And now they’ve given their fans a tactile gift, soft to the touch and a blessing to the ears. They’ve even saved the best for last: new piece “Todai” (“Lighthouse”), which comes across just like its title: a confident light, shining in the darkness, guiding the way to safety. (Richard Allen)