Momotaro is the third album by Takenobu, and is the first completely instrumental cello album by the composer and cellist. The album is a musical interpretation of the Japanese children's story Momotaro, the Peach Boy. The album flows as one continuous piece, with track markers to indicate different parts of the story but with no interruption in the music. Much like Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, each character has its own theme, but instead of an orchestra, all the parts are played on the cello.
The story itself tells of an old man and old woman that find a peach in a river, bring it home, and discover that a baby boy is inside. The boy grows up to be extremely strong and brave, and vows to avenge the villagers against demons the maraud and pillage them. Momotaro sets out when he is old enough, and meets three companions who all vow to help him fight, a Dog, a Monkey, and a Pheasant. The four travel by sea to the island of the demons, and find the demons in their lair. With the help of special millet dumplings, the companions overpower the demons and are able to return with the villagers possessions.
Each part of the story has a different mood, and the piece travels through many emotional peaks and valleys. The story begins with a lonely and sad old woman and old man in the mountains of Japan, and their song is very asian sounding, mimicking the sound of the Japanese Koto instrument, and drawing from the traditional Japanese piece Sakura, or Cherry Blossom. The River is where the old woman goes to wash clothing, and the sound of the water and the bubbling river make the background to this piece. Soon she sees a Peach, and the plucked sound is that of a peach bobbing happily down the stream, bouncing and buoyant. She takes the peach home and they cut it open to discover Momotaro, a triumphant and healthy baby boy. They are overjoyed, and the celebratory song of his birth is their own happiness and his extraordinary health and vibrance. Momotaro grows up quickly and is the strongest boy in the village.
The Demons come to raid the village, and their theme is dark and angry, violent and harsh, as they burn and pillage the village. In their wake they leave the villagers in despair, and there are many villagers weeping and lamenting their lost possessions and homes. That's when Momotaro decides to fight, to avenge the villagers and the old man and woman. The old woman makes him special millet dumplings that will make him strong, they contain magic and mystery, and will help him to be victorious on his brave journey. He summons the courage to set out on his journey and leaves the town he grew up in on his own, with a spirit of adventure in his heart.
He is soon greeted by a Dog, who barks and growls at him at first sight, until he learns of Momotaro's quest. The dog agrees to help him in exchange for one of the special millet dumplings.
Momotaro and the Dog then run into a Monkey, who howls at them at first sight, until he learns of Momotaro's quest. The Monkey agrees to help him in exchange for one of the special millet dumplings.
Momotaro the Dog and the Monkey then run into a Pheasant, who clucks at them at first sight, until he learns of Momotaro's quest. The Pheasant agrees to help him in exchange for one of the special millet dumplings.
The companions soon reach the sea, which they must cross by ship. They set out, and imagine their fight and reflect on the memories of their loved ones as they travel across the sea, pushed by the breeze. As they approach they must bolster their courage for the fight ahead.
Soon they see a dark and ominous island rising out of the mist. The sound of the Demon's Island is shrill and disharmonious, based in large part on the shrill and eery sound of Japanese Shinto pipes that are blown during religious ceremonies.
They land on the island and find the demons lair. They quietly sneak in, only to find that the Demons are all drunk and celebrating their recent pillages. Momotaro and his friends attack swiftly, strengthened by the special dumplings. The dog barks and bites, the monkey howls and fights, and the pheasant squawks and pecks. Soon enough they defeat the Demons, who vow never to pillage again.
The Voyage home is a happy and celebratory song of their victory. They're eager to see their loved ones again, and the theme is joyous and triumphant, and full of anticipation. The cello tremolos are as eager and giddy sounding, just as the companions are. The melody lines dance as the companions do on their victorious voyage.
When they return to the village they are welcomed as heroes, and the music is very celebratory, triumphant, driving, and victorious.
Momotaro is a cinematic album that is the soundtrack to an imagined version of the story. The music will take listeners to their own far off places, and is full of many different emotional textures and nuances. Takenobu's Momotaro is evocative of such cinema soundtrack composers as Philip Glass, Hans ZImmer, Thomas Newman, and Yann Tiersen.