a remarkable disc in several ways. It serves as a tribute to
both the fertile collaborations between the late Lord Menuhin
and Ravi Shankar (the title East meets West is
an inversion of one of their most celebrated efforts) and to
the still undervalued genius of Alfred Schnittke.
Last but not least, it reflects the revival of the luthéal as a contemporary
Daniel Hope is one of the most
talented violinists of his generation, first making this listener
sit up and take notice on a superb interpretation of Finzi's
sublime Elegy (Nimbus NI5666). It is entirely in
keeping with his musical outlook that he is also featured on
this Autumn's most important classical release, the John Foulds
It is interesting to note that
there has been a recent profusion of discs devoted to "obscure"
instruments, much of it down to Radiohead collaborator Thomas
Bloch - his ondes martinot CD (from Martinů to Lindsay
Cooper) on Naxos is superb. The luthéal featured here was invented
by Belgian Georges Cloetens in 1919 and is a grand piano modified
so that "the tone could resemble that of a lute-stop on
a harpsichord or the cimbalom". Ravel wrote Tzigane specifically for the instrument and it is fascinating to hear
it performed in its original incarnation. Hope's contribution
on violin in this piece is certainly up there with the best
of recent versions (Tasmin Little, for example). The Bartók is equally fine; it even caused
me to dig out the composer's own incomparable 1930s version
with arranger Székely!
composers are, for some reason, not always taken as seriously
as those from the European mainstream.
Falla is one whose reputation has suffered as a result - beautiful
though his most popular works (Nights in the Gardens of Spain etc.) are.
However there is a more forward looking side to some of his
music - try Brett Kelly's Naxos
disc (8.554366), which also shares with this release Paul Kochanski's
arrangement from the original voice and piano version of the
admittedly populist Suite.
Here the luthéal is employed
but there is little to choose between these two instrumental
versions. They are both highly enjoyable listening and still
not perhaps as conservative as you may imagine. Schnittke's
youthful sonata gets its first recording here and is a rather
more amenable piece than listeners familiar with his later works
might expect; Stravinsky, Ravel, even Debussy, may spring to
mind rather than the usual Shostakovich comparisons. How you
react to the Shankar pieces which bookend the disc will be a
matter of personal taste and how much you enjoy the sound of
the raga in whatever
transmutation it appears. They nevertheless do absolute justice
to the legacy they celebrate and remind us also of a shared
cultural history, one which Daniel Hope clearly values as did
Yehudi Menuhin before him. I would regard this as much more
of an artistic milestone (and an indication of where he wants
to go?) for Hope than his previous disc for Warners (Berg and
Britten Concertos), great though that was. Buy this and the
Foulds. Enjoy making the connections.