Ravi Shankar: Symphonyby Anoushka Shankar
It would be hard to overstate the significance Ravi Shankar has had in introducing Indian classical music to Western music, both pop and classical, because of his strong impact on the music and aesthetic of George Harrison and Philip Glass, and the breadth of their consequent influence. Shankar had written three concertos for sitar and orchestra, but this piece, premiered in 2010 by the forces that recorded it here, is his first symphony. It resembles a symphony in the fact that it has four movements: "faster outer movements, a lyrical second movement, and a third movement structured along the lines of a scherzo and trio." With the prominence of the sitar, though, the work has more the feel of a concerto. How it is defined in technical terms, though, is less important than the fact that it's a thoroughly engaging work, immediately accessible, with an appealing melodic directness. Each distinctive movement is based on a traditional raga, or melodic mode, so the work's non-Western roots are immediately recognizable. Shankar is successful in adapting the melodic and harmonic characteristics of the Indian classical tradition to a Western orchestra and in using the solo sitar as a complement to the orchestra. The piece ends with a delightful surprise that it would be unfair to spoil by describing here. David Murphy leads the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a polished performance that demonstrates sensitivity to the idiomatic writing, which incorporates devices from Indian classical music such as slides and bent tones. The composer's daughter Anoushka Shankar delivers a stellar performance of the solo part. She is an acknowledged virtuoso sitar player in the classical tradition and she also has a history of integrating Western popular styles, such as flamenco, with the music for her instrument. The contrast between the acoustic sound of the orchestra and the obviously amplified sound of the sitar may require some aural adjustment. The sound of the live performance is clean and detailed.
- Release Date:
- London Philharmonic
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Ravi Shankar Symphony – London Philharmonic Orchestra There have been many attempts at blending diverse musical forms with western classical music; the results have usually been mixed and have nearly always required a very loose interpretation of definitions (like, rock “opera”.) This work, supposedly based on the classical symphonic structure, uses several Indian ragas’ rhythmic cycles and their varying musical scales to suggest differing movements and aims, according to the liner notes, at “the development of a new ‘Indo-Classical’ musical genre.” As ambitious and well intentioned as this goal may be, the result here is, at best, only partially successful. Mostly the effect is like oil and water, with both European and Indian musical traditions sitting uneasily alongside one another. Given the improvisatory nature of Indian classical music and the almost purely interpretive nature of its European counterpart, this should come as no real surprise. There are moments of real interest generated by the orchestra’s rhythm section and, especially, by the inspired improvisations of sitarist Anoushka Shankar, the composer’s daughter. Sadly, these moments are to often held together by orchestral music that might charitably be described as incidental, in the cinematic sense. In any case, “Ravi Shankar Symphony” is an interesting attempt at blending two distinct, highly evolved musical cultures with differing, sometimes diametrically opposing aesthetic priorities and goals. The result is neither apples nor oranges. Recommended 7 out of 10 Oscar O. Veterano
Hearing Indian master Ravi Shankar utilize a traditional Western Orchestra is a revelation. The symphony follows a traditional four-movement structure, however his use of percussion is joyous as is the introduction of raga scales. The London Philharmonic sounds like they’re having a great time. The sitar is magical and here you get to hear it duel with a flute and other traditional western instruments. The opening movement could be from a lost Bollywood epic and will make you smile. Make sure to listen all the way to the end to hear the rapturous applause from the extremely delighted crowd. Highly recommended.