fri 10/07/2020

LPO, David Murphy, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

LPO, David Murphy, Royal Festival Hall

LPO, David Murphy, Royal Festival Hall

Ravi Shankar's Symphony has been 90 years in the making but is well worth the wait

Anoushka Shankar brings humour, humanity and uncomplicated directness to her performance

A packed Festival Hall and a cheering, stamping, standing ovation – hardly the usual welcome for an evening of contemporary music. Sitting, wizened and waistcoat-clad, at the centre of the front row was the reason: Ravi Shankar. Framed by the mathematical minimalism of John Adams’ Shaker Loops and Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Shankar’s first-ever symphony was last night given its world premiere by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.


Why did Shankar feel compelled to use the form of the symphony? If he is exploring East/West musical fusions he could have thought beyond the restrictions of a 4 movement, symphonic box. In the event it sounded more like a cross between a sitar concerto and a film score. It was fun to hear but I'm sure the applause was more for the man than for his "symphony". The Glass violin concerto was given a so-so performance but the soloists tone was thin and occasionally insecure. He played the slow movement as if it was Bruch or Mendelssohn. Not sure that the overly-Romantic approach was right for Glass. I sensed that a large part of the audience didn't often go to symphony concerts. How else to explain the wild applause between every movement of both the symphony and concerto? The former could be explained by the presence of the great Ravi Shankar but for every movement of the Glass?!!! Perhaps they'd all come to see and hear Anoushka. I, for one, would rather have listened to her playing a raga for 45 minutes.

I have to disagree with the criticisms of the Glass concerto. It's a beautiful work and I felt it was superbly played, with brilliant panache and verve by McDuffie. The Adams "Shaker Loops" was just as boring live as it is on disc - probably the least interesting minimalist work around. And the Shankar was most enjoyable, although very film-music-like in construction.

I agree with D Gifford - Shankar was very enjoyable, but didn't really justify its 'symphony' title. I can't agree that Shaker Loops is boring - I find it a wonderful work, though it received a somewhat bland performance here. In my opinion, McDuffie's performance was quite poor. He seemed inadequately prepared and his intonation was often alarmingly awry. I think it's a good piece, not a great one, and could have been played better by any number of violinists.

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