Ravi Shankar (above) was 89 on April 7. As well as being the leading exponent of the sitar Shankar has a long history of collaborations with Western musicians. His project with Philip Glass, Passages, featured here recently. He worked extensively with George Harrison, and it is quite scandalous that their Chants of India CD is no longer available. Shankar covered new ground with his duets with Yehudi Menuhin, and in 1971 recorded his First Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra with André Previn. A double CD of the Concerto and some Menuhin duets coupled with traditional ragas is a current EMI bargain and is also available as a download. Shankar's Third Sitar Concerto was premiered by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the composer's daughter Anoushka in January 2009.
Ravi Shankar's creative progress from raga through rock to concerto reaches its logical (if, some would claim, moribund) conclusion in his ninetieth birthday year with the world premiere of his new Symphony on July 1, 2010. This first performance is being given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the 'yogic maestro' Welshman David Murphy, who has worked with the sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The new work promises to be a truly cross-cultural creation with Indian musicians joining the LPO on the Royal Festival Hall stage. Shankar's new Symphony is coupled in the concert with John Adams' Shaker Loops and Philip Glass' Violin Concerto. Those purists who find these East/West fusions not to their tastes would do well to reflect on John Cage's words:
If you ask yourself why I am turning off, rather than being pleased with turning off, then you may learn something.But, I agree, Eastern tunings can be problematic.
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