PARAM VIR (b.1952): Raga Fields (Soumik Datta [sarod], Klangforum Wien; Enno Poppe), Before Krishna (London Chamber Orchestra; Odaline de la Martinez), Wheeling Past the Stars (Texts included. Patricia Auchterlonie [soprano], Ulrich Heinen [cello]), Hayagriva (Schönberg Ensemble; Micha Hamel).

Catalogue Number: 06W059

Label: NMC

Reference: D265

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: Vir was born and brought up in India, and was surrounded by Indian classical music from his earliest years; his education in Western music began early, and he eventually moved to London and studied with Knussen, and Jonathan Harvey, while Maxwell Davies and Henze became mentors; the influences of these composers can be felt in his treatment of Western instruments, which are treated in contemporary Western styles and harmonies, while Indian instruments play in authentic Indian style, rather than attempting a fusion of the two. In the substantial concerto for Sarod and orchestra, Raga Fields, this produces an exhilarating and stimulating co-operation of cultures, each given equal prominence, and brought together in different ways in the three movements. The first highlights the soloist, who opens the work in the style of the traditional alap and proceeds to play in authentic rāga style, with thrillingly virtuosic improvisation, while the ensemble contributes a richly textured sonic backdrop in richly resonant planes of sound. The second features the ensemble more prominently, and here Vir's background in European modernism is evident. Although the Western ensemble is not required to emulate Indian instruments, a good deal of glissando playing is employed, which blends with the fretless solo instrument's continuous sliding between notes (meend) a characteristic of Sarod performance technique. The Sarod plays ornamental arabesques in the first part of the movement, and exchanges melodic material and imitative gestures with the orchestra, increasingly in prominence toward the end. The finale is introduced with vigour by the ensemble, and after a few introductory gestures shared with the soloist it proceeds as a lively orchestral toccata, the Sarod holding its own in improvised, sparkling exchanges with the orchestra, bringing the piece to a whirlwind conclusion. Hayagriva refers to "a horse-headed being known in Indian and Tibetan sacred literature and art as an incarnation of Vishnu, associated with knowledge and wisdom." The piece is not programmatic, and evokes the magical being in rich and exuberant instrumental textures that have little specifically in common with Indian music, although some drones and extensive "bending" of notes point in that direction. The composer’s association with Peter Maxwell Davies is more likely to come to mind, appropriately enough, as the work was developed during a visit to the British composer's composition workshop. The song cycle to poems by Tagore, with rich, resonant solo cello accompaniment was written at the request of Rohan de Saram. The mellifluous, melismatic settings treat the texts, concerning love, nature, children and social politics, with the utmost sensitivity, expression, and drama. Before Krishna is an early work (1987) and the composer’s only strictly serial one. It’s tense dramatic narrative is based on a dodecaphonic row (with, in case you were wondering, nothing Eastern-sounding about it). Dense and complex in texture, the piece abounds in inventive sonorous effects, though its expressionistic imagery and sense of urgency are its most salient features.


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