Performers: Nishat Khan (sitar, tambura); Anne-Marie Lablaude, Brigitte Lesne, Catherine Schroeder, Dominique Vellard, Emmanuel Bonnardot, Willem de Waal (chant)
Playing time: 46'
Production date: 1996; recording dates: unknown (Abbey Anzy-le-Duc, France & CMC Studios, Rome)
For readers of the EM FAQ, the Ensemble Gilles Binchois needs little introduction. As their biography for this record states, their "every record ... marks a milestone in the history of the interpretation of ancient vocal music." This is undoubtedly true. Nishat Khan holds a very lofty position in North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, as he is now entering the prime of his career as the leading representative of his musical family, one which is the most famous in Indian music and which traces its roots directly to the crucible of the medieval Moghul court and the legendary Tansen. His uncle, Vilayat Khan, was the leading sitar player of his generation. (These remarks are not taken from the liner notes, but rather my previous acquaintence with these artists.)
Regretably, the manner of production is not specified in what are otherwise interesting & high-quality liner notes. My inference is that an existing recording of plainchant by Ensemble Gilles Binchois (verified as Harmonic 8827 by J.F. Weber) was used by Nishat Khan as the backdrop for his own sitar work, with mixing by Matteo Silva in Rome. Introductory remarks by Dominique Vellard are included, so Ensemble Gilles Binchois' work is used with permission, at the very least. It is also possible that Nishat Khan did not refer to the chant directly, and that the combination is entirely Silva's creation. Nonetheless, both performers are presented in entirely authentic manner, emphasizing the continuity of melodic line between these traditions. For someone familiar with each, the music melts seamlessly from one to the other. There is little by way of contrast, as one might typically expect from "fusion" efforts, but rather a synthesis of sound.
In that sense, I find few new ideas or stimulating reconstitutions of basic material. The production is essentially obvious in its combination of two traditions with which I am familiar. Nonetheless, it is certainly pleasant and any subsequent "discoveries" will be noted here. One point of emphasis for Silva is the hypothesized origin of plainchant in the Indian raga, a notion which is impossible to verify.
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