ITTAI SHAPIRA (b.1972): Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra “Sephardic Journeys”. Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Orchestra “Midnight’s Children” (BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Rumon Gamba), Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra (Arpeggione Chamber Orchestra; Robert Bokor).
Catalogue Number: 02U059
Label: Champs Hill
Description: These very different double concerti form a kind of musical travelogue with a huge diversity of national and stylistic influences, all within a very approachable, tonality-based idiom. Sephardic Journeys explores the history of the Sephardic Jews in a musical tour of all the countries and traditional musics that have traded characteristics with Sephardic culture. The composer tells us that his search for folk material for the work encompassed music and culture of Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Uganda and Latin America. The colorful concerto is in three linked movements in traditional layout, with some motivic consistency across a wide range of moods and styles, suggesting nostalgia for tradition while adapting rituals, laments and celebrations from different cultures. Midnight's Children is quite different. It explores the composer's "... love for British symphonic music and Indian folk music", of which the former is the most readily apparent. It is based on Salman Rushdie's rich tapestry of magical realism, marvellously evocative of India in all its sensations and atmospheres. Rushdie himself provides the narration of passages from the book as part of the texture. The full-blooded English Romantic tradition is celebrated in passages both imposing and playfully humorous - as Rushdie wryly observes in the ebullient last movement "All games have morals; for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner, and for every snake, a ladder will compensate." Magyar is also a big-boned neo-romantic concerto, though this time, as the title suggests, indebted to Hungarian and Gypsy music. Like the other works here, though, the piece explores a journey, beginning with the exodus of a violin playing Gypsy population from India in the middle ages (also a theme explored by Ronald Stevenson in his Violin Concerto, which is inexplicably not available on CD). In tribute to Shapira's Hungarian-Jewish violin teacher, Ilona Feher, who established an Israeli school of violin playing, the music picks up Jewish inflections along the way. The exhilarating and energetic dance-finale enthusiastically celebrates Hungarian Gypsy culture. Ittai Shapira (violin), Hagai Shaham (second violin), Thomas Carroll (cello), Robert Plane (clarinet).