Motets and chansons by Claude Le Jeune, Antoine Brumel, Jean Richafort and Claudin de Sermisy, interspersed with Indian ragas
Nishat Khan (sitar), Rashid Mustafa Thirakwa (tabla) & Natasha Ahmad (tanpura)
Reviewed by: Nikki Akinjinmi
Reviewed: 1 September, 2008
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
This late-night Prom began with the BBC Singers performing plainsong and music from the French Renaissance with improvisations by Nishat Khan on his sitar. The Singers seemed dominant of most of the pieces with mannered performances, Khan providing minimalist and not-loud-enough accompaniment. It was though an interesting mix of differing musical styles if not quite a marriage of East and West – it was as if Khan was hesitant in his accompaniment and, perhaps, the Singers and Khan were not wanting to alter the subtle balance of musical styles – there was a religious reverence to proceedings, the audience bearing witness to a sacred ceremony.
The 12 members of the BBC Singers then performed Messiaen’s “Cinq rechants” inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde and capturing the imagery of love and lovers through differing textures and the use of syllables from the Indian-Peruvian language, Quechua. Either in the performance of the work, or due to elements of the work itself, there were suggestions of “Cinq rechants” being reminiscent of a score for a film noir.
Nishat Khan then performed two ‘night ragas’ with Rashid Mustafa Thirakwa on tabla, who provided interesting percussive support during the first raga, and Natasha Ahmad on tanpura, who had replaced Emmanuel Masongsong at short notice.
As the evening came to a close, the sitar’s notes dispersed into the night air of the auditorium with a surreal quality. Looking around the half-empty/half-full Hall was to notice members of the audience lying down, seemingly relaxed, as though at an open-air festival, trying to catch the last bit of warmth from the embers of a fire.