Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Congratulations are due to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for presenting an
altogether off-thebeaten- track work in its concert last week, conducted by
Zubin Mehta – Ravi Shankar’s Sitar Concerto Nr. 2.
Not only does this
work represent the here merely little-known Indian culture, but it is also a
refreshingly modernist piece (1980), quite unlike the usually conservative IPO
programs, and featuring an instrument normally not encountered in the orchestra
repertoire – the sitar (Indian long-necked lute). Besides being an inspired and
immensely impressive piece, it is also a cleverly constructed one. The sitar
mostly does not play together with the orchestra but in dialogue with it, or
joining it only in its softest passages, in order not to let its delicate sound
get drowned in the strong orchestral turbulence. The orchestra prominently
features percussion instruments in asymmetrical, energetic rhythms, in the
traditional Indian music spirit, and ample solo sonorities, providing abundant
A lengthy flute solo and, later, a violin solo, were
Melodies were mostly in non- Western tonalities,
representing the work’s Oriental roots. The sitar solo proceeds largely in an
improvisational manner, faithful to the traditional style.
Anoushka Shankar, the composer’s daughter, captivated the audience by uncommonly
subtle microtonal nuances and also, toward the end of the third and fourth
movements, by displaying formidable virtuosic skill. At the end, the audience
even forgot its stereotype mechanical rhythmic clapping custom, and broke out in
genuinely spontaneous, enthusiastic applause.
As a compensation for the
conservative IPO audience, the concert concluded with a well-rehearsed, standard
performance of Dvorak’s Symphony Nr. 7.