“Narayama” is a piece for solo voice and piano that Kozaburo Hirai composed with two Japanese poems written by Shihoko Kitami which recall the ancient metropolis of Nara.
“Narayama (Mount Nara)” was composed in 1935 and it forms one part of a trilogy together with “Kai no Sawa (Swamp in Kai)” and “Kujūkurihama”. “Narayama” represents one of the most famous pieces of Hirai. It contains lyrics in a lofty style and a poignant sense of singing, but the piano accompaniment takes on a very important role in the piece as well.
Hirai hoped to focus the attention on the rhythm consisting of a sixteenth rest, a sixteenth note and a dotted eight note which characterizes the piece. In addition to this, he asks the pianist to let people listen to the melody of the left-hand part and play the last arpeggios slowly.
The explanation that the tonal pattern continuing from the prelude is imitating a koto is often seen (as in, for example, “Japanese Song Collection vol. 2” published in 2005 by Zen-On Music Publishing Company). However, some singers who received vocal instructions from Hirai testify that Hirai himself remarked that the accompaniment was suitable for a violin. Whether this is true or not, the best way to perform the piano part is probably not to be caught up in thoughts on tone colors of other instruments, but rather to focus on how one may draw out an effective expression.