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Music Season
The Chennai December Festival

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Music Season

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Question of planning


Better format would go a long way in sustaining audience interest.

Photos: K.Pichumani and V.ganesan

WITH NUANCES: T.V.Sankaranarayanan.

Accompanied by Nagai R.Sriram on the violin, Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam on the mridangam and Anirudh Atreya on the kanjira, T.V.Sankaranarayanan began his concert, on Vaikunta Ekadasi day, with a sloka on Lord Narayana in Sarasangi in which he proposed to open the performance with `Jaya Jaya Padmanabha' of Swati Tirunal in Adi tala. This piece with kalpanaswara was followed by `Sri Parthasarathina' in Suddha Dhanyasi (Rupaka) with just kalpanaswara. The third song in Darbar, Misra Chapu tala, `Kshemamkuru' of Narayana Tirtha was also rendered without a raga alapana prefix or a kalpanaswara suffix. The artiste gave a good alapana of Saraswathi raga (Vagaeeshwari of Muthiah Bhagavathar) and embellished the kirtana with a good dose of kalpanaswaras with `kuraippu' exchanges between him and the violinist.

The Kalyani raga alapana came off with pleasant nuances. The kriti opted was `Needucharana Pankaja' in Adi tala of pallavi Gopala Iyer which has become a rarity on the concert platform these days.

The Bhairavi raga alapana with `Tanayuni Brova,' the Adi tala kriti of Tyagaraja almost occupied the position of the main piece of the kutcheri with a brilliant thani avartanam session by Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and the bright Anirudh Atreya.

Anirudh Atreya, grandson of violin vidwan, the late V. Thiagarajan and grand nephew and disciple of the kanjira maestro, the late V. Nagarajan, perked up the audience to attention with his rendition on the kanjira. In the thani he rose equal to Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam by his mature and energetic playing. By then, time had almost run out and Sankaranarayanan had to skip the pallavi he had planned to sing in raga Priyadarshini disappointing the audience. He concluded the concert with a virutham in Sahana and Hamsanandi with `Tirupati Vasa.' Sankaranarayanan gave a short touching rendition of Suratti raga after mangalam. Nagai Sriram's support on the violin and also the solo renditions were excellent.

Endowed with a good tonal quality and the strength of `saadhakam' Mysore Nagaraj and Manjunath are remarkable violinists. Starting with the Saveri raga Adi tala varnam of Patnam Subramanya Iyer, they proceeded to the Kanada raga Rupaka tala kriti of Swati Tirunal, `Mamava Sada Janani' after a sketch of the raga by both the brothers. They had a long spell of kalpanaswara for the kriti. The Vachaspathi raga alapana for `Paratpara' (Adi) of Papanasam Sivan indulging in stage-by-stage exploration of the raga, as though they were practising with every imaginative possibility made the rasikas restive. The kalpanaswara in the kirtana was also of the same duration.

`Sri Valli Deva Senapathe' by the same composer in Natabhairavi raga, Adi tala was rendered without any raga alapana. `Rama Katha Sudha' the composition nonpareil of Tyagaraja in Madhyamavati, Adi tala was the next choice, of course with a lengthy alapana session, niraval and kalpanaswara.

Niraval should be a short indicative exercise, especially in instrumental concerts, because of the absence of words in the presentation unlike in vocal concerts. This aspect was overlooked by the duo. Thani avartanam by Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam on the mridangam and Suresh on the ghatam followed. In all, this piece alone consumed two hours and ten minutes.

The brothers then announced that they would be presenting a short Tri raga pallavi in Thodi, Kalyani and Mohanam. Raga alapana for these ragas with tanam and pallavi in Chatusrajathi Ata tala with all the connected exercises was taken up. In addition to kalpanaswaras in the three ragas of the pallavi, Hindolam and Behag figured. The inclusion of Madhyamakala compositions between heavy pieces was totally absent with the performance weighing down heavily on the audience.

Lengthy presentation of raga alapana by both the brothers in the same raga could have been avoided to prevent monotony and repetitive sangatis. Each raga alapana could be dealt by one player while the main raga for the Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi could be handled by both. Their virtuosity will be appreciated more with better planning of the concert.

Sudha Ragunathan's depth of knowledge in music is certainly perceptible. Her renditions at the concert were heart-warming.

She commenced the concert with the Hamsadhwani varnam in Adi tala of Patnam Subramania Iyer in two speeds. `Rere Manasa Bhajare,' a Natai raga kriti in Rupaka tala of Cheyyar Chengalvaraya Sastri came next. As is the usual practice starting the anu pallavi `Balakanakamaya,' Sudha rendered the Tyagaraja kirtana `Elanee Daya Raadu' in raga Atana, Adi tala.

A brief sloka in Saveri raga preceded the handling of the kriti `Sankari Sankuru' of Syama Sastri in Adi tala Tisra Gati. This kriti had a brief chittaswaram passage also. After the rendition of the kriti, `Sri Mathrubhootham' of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in Kannada in Misra Chapu tala, Sudha took up the alapana of Kharaharapriya, which came out grandly.

The kriti chosen by her was again the magnificent composition of Tyagaraja, `Chakkani Raja Margamulu' in Adi tala. This piece is becoming rare in concerts these days.

Thani avartanam by Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan, mridangam, and R.Raman, morsing, had to be comparatively short in view of the fact that time was running out. Sudha's keenness to handle a Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi in raga Gamanasramam would have necessitated this restraint on the thani.

A small impediment was perceptible in Sudha's voice when negotiating fast sweeping sangatis in raga alapanas, which possibly was a temporary phenomenon. `Baro Krishnayya' in Yamuna Kalyani, the masterpiece of her guru, M.L.Vasanthakumari, was well attempted.

The concert concluded with `Sri Sayee' in Chandrakouns. The whole concert was wholesome and highly satisfying. The violin accompanist B. Raghavendra Rao and the percussionists cooperated in bolstering the success of this concert.


Sashank's flute concert commenced with the Saveri Raga varnam in Adi tala of Patnam Subramania Iyer. Sashank took up raga Ganamurthy for alapana, which was lengthy as a first raga alapana of the concert. The kriti chosen was "Ganamurthe" in Adi tala of Tyagaraja which was treated with elaborate kalpanaswara. It was interesting to find Sashank using the long, Hindustani type of flute for the lower octaves and changing it to normal ones for the higher octaves. This exercise was done often in the kalpanaswara portion. A prolonged session, it created a sense of monotony. Sumasayaka, a Pada varnam in Karnataka Kapi came up next. One was wondering about the placement of this as the third item in the programme, as a varnam traditionally is taken up as an opening piece in a concert. Again a `revolutionary' mind at work.

This varnam is a masterly creation with the last ethukadai swaram having six lines and the last four in ragamalika the ragas being Kalyani, Khamas, Vasantha and Mohanam. The rendition by Sashank was refreshing after `Ganamurthe.' Mohanam, again, was overstretched with two flutes alternating.

Before embarking on the Ragam Tanam and Pallavi in Dharmavati, Sashank presented the kriti of Muthiah Bhagavatar in Budhamanohari, a rare piece. A detailed exposition of Dharmavati Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi with thani avartanam by the mridangam pair V.V.Ramamurthy and P.Satish Kumar was a noticeable interlude.

Violin vidwan B.U.Ganesh Prasad's role was quite supportive and he acquitted himself well. That Sashank is progressing towards better concert craft was certainly perceptible. More number of songs with less lengthy raga essays would be welcome.

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