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Ravi Shankar: Symphony / Anoushka Shankar, sitar

Album Summary

>Shankar, Ravi : Symphony no 1
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Recorded live at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, London on 1 July 2010 First and only available recording of this most anticipated work by one of India's best-known composers, Ravi Shankar. Featuring the dazzling sitar-playing of Anoushka Shankar - whose recordings on the Deutsche Grammophon label include the Grammy-nominated 'Live at Carnegie Hall' Legendary composer and sitarist Ravi Shankar is one of India's most highly esteemed musical ambassadors, renowned for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West. 2010 saw the première of his ambitious fusion work, his first symphony conceived for a Western symphony orchestra, which translates the aural sensibilities and sound-worlds of Indian music into a Western structural framework. In this live recording of the work's première, David Murphy conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka on sitar. Ravi Shankar travelled a great deal in the West as a child dancer in his elder brother Uday Shankar's troupe of Indian musicians and dancers. During a long sojourn in Paris in the early 1930s, he met many of the legends of Western classical music: George Enescu, the great Romanian violinist and composer who was then teaching the teenage Menuhin in Paris. Toscanini, Heifetz, Paderewski, Casals, Kreisler and the great Russian bass Chaliapin were some of the musical legends who made an impact on the young Ravi Shankar. He also experienced the reaction of Westerners to hearing Indian music for the first time. He noticed that the Western ear is attuned to harmony, modulation and counterpoint: musical textures which of necessity are almost entirely absent in Indian music in order to maintain the melodic purity of the raga. He realized Western-trained ears needed an awareness of the rhythmic and melodic structures underpinning Indian music in order to appreciate it. Thus in later years, Ravi Shankar became the first Indian musician to explain these concepts to his audiences. Through Ravi Shankar, Indian music began to have an influence on most genres of Western music: Yehudi Menuhin became a duo partner and George Harrison was another Western musician for whom the music of India resonated deeply. Harrison became a devoted student and lifelong friend, thus the influence of Indian music reached out to a whole generation.

Fanfare Magazine, September/October 2012
This is one of those CDs you almost feel lucky to have in existence, as it preserves a moment in time and a work that may be a game-changer for future composers wishing to coalesce Western and Indian music. . . Anoushka is young enough that she just might produce an entire school of such musicians. Highly recommended.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, London (07/01/2010).

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. ~ Stephen Eddins


Neither Apples Nor Oranges
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

Submitted on 05/15/12 by Oscar O. Veterano 
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Works Details

>Shankar, Ravi : Symphony no 1
  • Performer: Anoushka Shankar (Sitar)
  • Conductor: David Murphy
  • Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Running Time: 41 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Studio/Live: Live