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Classical 101

West Meets East in Ravi Shankar's "Symphony"

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The London Philharmonic joined Ravi Shankar's own daughter, the illustrious Anoushka Shankar, to perform Shankar senior's work for western orchestra and sitar, "Symphony."

Indian musician Ravi Shankarsaid that the purpose of Indian music is to lead the listener "to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe--its eternal and unchanging essence--can be joyfully experienced."  This combination of the spiritual aspect of his performances and the sheer joy and exuberance he expressed while playing the sitar, made him one of the outstanding musical artists of the last 70 years.     

Not only was Ravi Shankar one of the greatest performers on the sitar in traditional Indian music, but he was also an innovator, crossing musical boundaries in blending Eastern and Western forms.  Shankar collaborated and made recordings with numerous Western musicians, including Yehudi Menuhin, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Zubin Mehta.  He influenced jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane and others beginning in the late the 1950's, The Beatles' George Harrison (and many others) in the 1960's, and inspired composer Phillip Glass to strike out in a new direction in what would come to be called Minimalism.  Ravi Shankar's influence on music in the West was considerable.    

In 2010, the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed and recorded Symphony by Ravi Shankar two years before the composer's death at the age of 92.  Conductor David Murphy worked with Shankar on the score of this traditionally structured four-movement symphony with each movement based on themes from Indian ragas.  The work also contains virtuosic passages for the sitar, played brilliantly by Anouska Shankar, Ravi's daughter, who is a virtuoso performer on the instrument in her own right.  You can hear this music  for yourself on Symphony @ 7 this Thursday evening on Classical 101.

To begin the hour, music by Sir Edward Elgar, his Crown of India Suite from 1912.  It's music written for a spectacular entertainment at the London Coliseum to celebrate the tour of India by King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress when India was still the "Crown Jewel" of the British Empire.  In the coming decades, history was to irrevocably change the relationship between England and India, but this is music in Elgar's best "Pomp and Circumstance" manner from a bygone era.     

Thursday evening,  join me for "West Meets East" in music of Edward Elgar and Ravi Shankar on Symphony @ 7 on Classical 101.