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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Confident Improvment On His Concertos, 9 Aug 2012
By 
Mr. A. R. Boyes "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] (Audio CD)
I had come across Ravi Shankar's First Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra. I don't remember it with any great fondness because there was precious little integration between the soloist and orchestra and the orchestra part was thin. Without recourse to western harmonies the orchestra seemed like mere padding. In other words he could have stuck with his usual instrumental ensemble rather than padding a piece out with a seriously unutilised large orchestra.

Some of the reviews on Amazon.com echo the same view about this Symphony and you can hear why. Firstly, each movement has an extended solo for the sitar so it is a concertante work. Secondly; there are still few harmonies for the orchestra to get their teeth into.

It is surely asking far too much for the renowned Sitar player and composer to ape their styles, especially at such an advanced age. In this symphony it is possible to trace some influence from his collaborations with Philip Glass, and vice versa of course. Given that Philip Glass's concert works are of uneven quality that's not necessarily a good thing but I think in this case it has helped to some degree. This isn't a work in the style of American minimalism though.

So what has changed since the First Sitar Concerto? In some ways Ravi Shankar has stuck to what he knows and likes to build this more extended piece. Rhythmically it is more animated than the earlier work. The Sitar is amplified, unlike the western instruments. That takes a little getting used to but perversely seems to integrate the instrument better into the sounds of the western instruments. Even so, the music for the Sitar and western instruments is consciously separated except for the odd echo of the sitar on the flute and oboe. The richness and wash of the sitar does bleed nicely into the orchestral parts so that the two don't feel completely alien to each other. For all the effort to engage with western practice Ravi Shankar sounds more like himself in this piece. This is a much more assured work than the first concerto.

Each of the four movements has an engaging momentum, hypnotic like many of his pieces: the scherzo and finale are the most effective. Switching between sitar and orchestra doesn't break this flow. The four movements use western tempo markings but the similarities with most western symphonies ends there.

The title "Symphony" is valid enough - there are no written rules governing symphonic structure anyway. The use of a solo instrument is hardly unique among symphonies and can provide a song like quality with the instrument backed up by the orchestra rather than being, as is often the case in concertos, set against.

The playing may be virtuosic but is never showy, with the possible exception of the flourish at the end, which comes with a few crowd pleasing surprises. It has little western symphonic rhetoric but there's no rule that says it should. What you get is four instantly attractive and hypnotic pieces that sit comfortably together. Without recourse to rich harmonies there's little room for dissonance or complex harmonic progressions so it relies more on rhythmic and melodic development as well as instrumental colour.

It may not be Ravi Shankar's greatest achievement and may not live long in western concert halls but it is certainly not to be sneered at. It'll have a longer life on disc anyway because his previous concertos have and this is superior to them. A recording that lasts only 42 minutes is a problem though: there was room for at least one complementary work.

The performance sounds excellent, especially given that it was a live recording. The playing and interpretation sound excellent to me even if the orchestra hardly seem pushed by the demands made upon them. Overall it's just about worth 4 stars: certainly worth getting to know.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ravi and Anoushka: dream team, 31 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] (Audio CD)
A wonderful, life-affirming piece that evolves through a variety of styles with some exquisitely poignant moments as well as some grandiose symphonic statements.
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5.0 out of 5 stars *****, 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] (Audio CD)
Together with the two concertos for sitar and orchestra this CD gives a fantastic insight in Shankar's world of music.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great CD!, 1 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] (Audio CD)
I heard of this CD on Classical ABC FM radio here in Australia. I am so very glad that I bought this CD> The music is amaizng & composition is excellent!
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5.0 out of 5 stars another gem from Anoushka, 5 Sep 2012
By 
Bodhi Heeren (Copenhagen) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] (Audio CD)
Crossing genres and widening the popularity of Indian music and instruments have been a life long passion for sitar pandit Ravi Shankar (who amazingly still performs at 92). Here he has given the sitar part over to his immensely talented daughter Anoushka Shankar, a just as bold and adventurous musical soul as evidenced by her string of beautiful and challenging solo albums (Traveller and Breathing Under Water being my personal favorites).

And it really is the marvelous playing af Anoushka that is the main attraction on this release combined with the great sound of the live recording. Cause as other have stated the orchestral arrangements may not be so interesting, sounding more like a John Williams movie score than say Messiaen, Saariaaho or Per NÝrgard.

But none the less a beautiful experience. Relaxing, uplifting music with an added profoundity thanks to the sitar mastery.
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Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060]
Ravi Shankar: Symphony [LPO: LPO-0060] by Anoushka Shankar (Audio CD - 2012)
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