Richard Clayderman
& Rahul Sharma,
The Confluence
(Narada, 2002)

The Confluence: Santoor & Piano is the product of a collaboration between probably the world's best known pianist of easy listening music and the scion of a prominent family of Indian santoor players.

French-born Richard Clayderman is usually associated with the "musical wallpaper" that can be heard in hotel lobbies and elevators around the world. Although he is a crafty pianist, he can hardly be called an original interpreter of the covers he usually plays. Rahul Sharma is a third-generation santoor player and composer. He is the son and student of the illustrious Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, who at the instigation of his father, Uma Dutt Sharma, succeeded in making the "folksy" santoor into an acceptable instrument for playing classical Indian music.

The genesis of this CD is somewhat curious. Half of the compositions on this album are from the hand of Rahul Sharma. Three numbers -- "Yeh Hai Bambai Meri Jaan," "Tere Ghar Ke Saamne" and "Dekha Ek Khwab" -- are existing pieces originally written for "Bollywood" movies, while "Norwegian Wood" belongs to the legacy of Lennon and McCartney. The composer of the remaining track, "Ecstasy," is not mentioned. Sharma subsequently recorded the santoor contributions in India, after which Clayderman's arrangers and producers rewrote Sharma's original santoor scores for piano. Clayderman then recorded his piano interpretations in Paris. So, in effect -- although they did have preliminary meetings in India -- Clayderman and Sharma never actually play together on this album.

As for the resulting music, the general impression that this collection leaves behind is one of artificiality. Whatever the merits of Sharma's original compositions, most of the tracks have been turned into bland studio remixes dominated by colorless electric keyboards and rhythm programming. Clayderman's piano contributions are vintage Clayderman: technically fine, but lacking in artistic originally or personal character.

The santoor tributary to this musical Confluence, meanwhile, has unfortunately been reduced to a mere trickle. Except for the album's final composition, a santoor solo titled "Celebration," it seems that the composer's own contributions have been made subservient to the name recognition of Richard Clayderman. Certainly this album could have been turned into something much more exciting.

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 6 December 2003

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