Review: Simon Thacker And The Nava Rasa Ensemble - Nada ~ Ananda
Nada ~ Ananda
|Artist:||Simon Thacker And The Nava Rasa Ensemble|
|Album:||Nada ~ Ananda|
|Date of Release:||2011/06|
|Label:||Slap The Moon Records|
|Country of Release:||UK|
2. World | World Fusion
|Sub-Genre/s:||1. East-West Fusion, Guitar Concerto
2. East-West Fusion
|Date of Review:||2011/12/19|
Nada ~ Ananda
Simon Thacker And The Nava Rasa Ensemble's Nada ~ Ananda was released on Slap The Moon Records last June.
The Nava Rasa Ensemble is an outstanding East - West chamber ensemble assembled by renowned, formidable classical guitarist Simon Thacker. In addition to Thacker himself, it features Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth on Indian violin, Sarvar Sabri on tabla, The renowned Edinburgh Quartet of Tristan Gurney, violin, Phillip Burrin, violin, Michael Beeston, viola, and Mark Bailey, cello, as well as Mario Lima Caribé da Rocha on double bass and Iain Sandilands, percussion.
Thus, from a virtuosic and musicianship point of view, nothing but the highest, most exemplary standard is to be expected, and is indeed delivered throughout. One could not fault the ensemble's playing if one tried. It is a delight in itself.
The music itself consists of two pieces. Opening is Shirish Korde's Nada ~ Ananda, a concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble. This is followed by Nigel Osborne's The Birth Of Naciketas, for guitar concertante. Both works here receive their world premiere recording.
The most delightful aspect of Korde's work is that, in its opening and second movement, it uses a - immediately recognisable - variant version of Rag Lalit for its basic scale, although it does not follow the melodic patterns of the Rag too closely. This variant uses a minor sixth instead of a major one - this and various other aspects of this piece have already been discussed in some detail in a review of a live performance by Thacker's latest East - West ensemble, Svara-Kanti, so repetition here would be superfluous. Perhaps the two most irritating aspects of Korde's Nada ~ Ananda, for me, are the conjunction of composed and improvised lines - this just does not work somehow - and the sitar-imitating writing for the guitar. Exploit the guitar to its fullest in its own right, else why not write for sitar in the first place? In spite of Thacker's superlative playing, this just sounds all wrong and does not come off. Thacker is truly breath-taking with some superb dialogue with the tabla in the third movement.
This sitar imitation again is frequently to be found in Osborne's The Birth Of Naciketas, and the same applies here as before. However, elsewhere there is some exciting guitar writing in its own right to be found. Thacker's playing in itself is utter delight. Among the percussion, the use of the marimba - and its playing and fine rhythmic interplay with the guitar - also stand out. Sadly, overall Osborne's work comes across as somewhat new-agey in places, though still with some world music interest nonetheless.
Of the two pieces, Korde's Nada ~ Ananda clearly comes across as the better, more interesting one. And overall, this album has a certain world music interest. The superb virtuosity of Thacker and Dr. Srikanth alone would be worth the price of admission, and the rest of the ensemble come as a considerable bonus.
However, both Korde's and Osborne's compositions, in the way of classically orientated East - West encounter music, sadly offer nothing new, nothing original. This kind of East-Meets-West fusion has been done for decades, and has been done to death for the most part. For real, original East-Meets-West encounters, you mostly have to look to jazz or world music these days (although, as ever, there are exceptions - most notably perhaps the Iranian composer and kemancheh maestro Kayhan Kalhor, and Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project), and even there you have to be choosy.
Where Simon Thacker And The Nava Rasa Ensemble's Nada ~ Ananda scores is as exactly that, world music. Ignore the composers' pretensions, both in the music and, especially also in Osborne's sleeve notes, and just enjoy this album and the brilliant musicianship and virtuosity of the musicians.
Nada ~ Ananda: Concerto for guitar & chamber ensemble (Shirish Korde) :
The Nava Rasa Ensemble:
Simon Thacker - classical guitar
Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth - Indian violin
Sarvar Sabri - tabla
The Edinburgh Quartet:
Tristan Gurney- violin
Phillip Burrin - violin
Michael Beeston - viola
Mark Bailey - cello
Mario Lima Caribé da Rocha - double bass
Iain Sandilands - percussion
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