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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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East meets West
Ravi SHANKAR (b.1920)
Raga Piloo In memoriam Yehudi Menuhin
Swara-Kakali (based on Raga Tilang) In memoriam Yehudi Menuhin
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane - Rapsodie de concert for violin and luthéal (original version)
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Suite populaire espagnole (arr. Kochanski)
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Romanian Folk Dances (arr. Székely)
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Sonata 1955 for Violin and Piano (world premiere recording)
Daniel Hope, violin
Sebastian Knauer, piano/luthéal
Gaurav Mazumdar, sitar
Asok Chakraborty, tabla
Gilda Sebastian, tanpura
Recorded at NDR, Rolf-Liebermann-Studio, Hamburg, 5th-6th November 2003.
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 61329-2 [72.57]



 

This is 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 instrument.

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 orchestral anthology.

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!

Spanish 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.

Neil Horner



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