John Mayer • Jonathan Mayer
John Mayer: Violin Concerto No. 2 ‘Sarangi ka Sangit’*; Concerto for the Instruments of an Orchestra; Jonathan Mayer: Sitar Concerto No. 2; Pranam**
*Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin), Jonathan Mayer (tanbura/sitar), **Shahbaz Hussain (tabla); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Debashish Chaudhuri
First Hand Records FHR 88 84:34 mins
The music of John Mayer (1929-2004) and Jonathan Mayer (b1975), father and son, spans a cultural divide which other composers are still struggling to bridge. John, born in Calcutta to an Anglo-Indian father and Tamil mother, studied at London’s Royal Academy. He worked as an orchestral violinist, composed fusions of Hindustani and Western classical idioms, collaborated with the jazz musician Joe Harriott and founded and led a jazz quintet named Indo-Jazz Fusions. Jonathan Mayer took lessons in composition from his father, and at 16 began training on the sitar. He now composes in a synthesis of European and Indian musical idioms. This recording puts four of their goods in the shop window; all are premiere commercial recordings.
By far the most successful is John’s Violin Concerto No. 2 Sarangi ka Sangit. In its opening movement the violin, played with winning intensity by Sasha Rozhdestvensky, is surrounded by antiphonal instrumental cries and seems to be exploring an enchanted realm, its soundworld pleasurably unplaceable. As the work progresses there are hints of a Balkan style and the imprint of Western modernism. It deserves to be far better known.
John Mayer’s Concerto for the Instruments of an Orchestra is replete with echoes of composers including Stravinsky and Ravel, but relies too much on readymade orchestral effects. The same has to be said of Jonathan’s Pranam, despite the beauty of his raga-style sitar opening and the engaging sequence of its instrumental sallies. And the solo work in his Sitar Concerto is gorgeous.