Shirish KORDE (b.1945)
Nada-Ananda – concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble (Alap [4.59]; In Strict Rhythm [7.48]; Joy [6.24])
Nigel OSBORNE (b. 1948)
The Birth of Naciketas for guitar concertante (Love [5.37]; Death-Sun [2.05]; Mother-Birth-Naciketas [2.18]; Father [1.26]; Moon [4.53]; Dance – Maelstrom [4.21])
The Nava Rasa Ensemble (Simon Thacker (guitar), Dr Jyotsna Srikanth (Indian violin), Sarvar Sabri (table), Tristan Gurney, Philip Burrin (violins), Michael Beeston (viola), Mark Bailey (cello), Mario Lima Caribe da Rocha (double-bass), Iain Sandilands (percussion))
rec. Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland, November 2009

Simon Thacker is a classical guitarist who has been deeply influenced throughout his life by music from India, amongst other countries. He explains how this ensemble, The Nava Rasa Ensemble, is “the realisation of a long held and deeply felt ambition that is part of an exciting, ever expanding journey”. Having played works by Shirish Korde and Nigel Osborne on tour - both of whom were interested in the meeting of Eastern and Western music - he started discussing commissions with them. These new works would be for a combination of Eastern and Western instruments, and would incorporate elements from both sound-worlds. The results are recorded on this disc - Nada-Ananda – a concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble by Korde – an Indian composer who has established a name for himself in Western contemporary music. Then comes The Birth of Naciketas for guitar concertante, by the Manchester-born Osborne, who has here turned to Indian music for inspiration.

The disc opens with Nada-Ananda, a virtuosic work that explores the colours and technical capabilities of the classical guitar. This is set against a rhythmically complex background with Indian harmonies and melodies. The first movement, Alap, is based on the North Indian Raga Lalit and has the Indian Carnatic violin closely accompanying the guitar. This is followed by the jazzy In Strict Rhythm, with its inclusion of tabla, while the exuberant Joy – influenced by the collaborations of jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and tabla player Zakir Hussain – concludes the work.

The story of Naciketas comes from the Upanishads: Naciketas being a child whose mother died in childbirth, and whose life is saved when his father makes a bargain with Death. Osborne’s The Birth of Naciketas is based on the ten scale patterns, thaats, in Indian classical music, and to each of which Osborne has allocated associated times of day (creating a 24-hour cycle), and themes. Thus, for instance, the opening Alap is entitled Love, and is associated with late night, and the following Gat is Death, and the associated time is day-break. The work has tremendous beauty – much of it suffused with serenity, and a sense of otherworldliness (especially Moon).

I was deeply impressed by this disc – not just by the undeniably high standard of musicianship throughout, but also by the fascinating, accessible and interesting compositions, which demonstrate that successful collaboration between Eastern and Western music is, indeed, possible, and that elements of both can be combined to create works of tremendous depth and character. Although rather on the short side, this is a rather special disc – the merits of which also include absolutely beautiful presentation.

Em Marshall

On the short side but a rather special disc the merits of which include absolutely beautiful presentation.