It was a concert in the true sense of the word, where everyone chipped in to make it good, including the 84-year-old Mayuram Somu, the ghatam artist. It was OST’s Durbar that held the subjects in an enchanting spell. It was an unexceptionable Durbar and OST laid bare the entrails of the raga with good precision. Violinist Ramanujacharyulu did a splendid job of maintaining the tempo in his follow through. Tyagaraja’s ‘Mundu Venuga’ was a happy choice.
The absence of niraval in the main piece, that is unfortunately becoming a norm these days, underscores the perils of two-hour concert format. Still, if artists managed time better, they could avoid this. For such a brilliant alapana and a matching follow-up by the violinist, the absence of niraval at an appropriate point, say at ‘O Gaja Rrakshaka’ would have been more fulfilling. Instead, OST went straight to kalpanaswaras at ‘Bhagavathapriya’. The lovely gamaka swirls at the nishadham enhanced the beauty of the rendition.
The force of niraval was however present in the previous piece, Varali (‘Eti Janmamu’ of Tyagaraja). Again it was a great alapana, but it yields scope for a couple of observations. First, the long, gliding karvai at the upper ‘ri’ was absent. So was the ‘ni-ma’ combination. These two are among the defining features of Varali and the alapana would have been even more delectable but for these omissions. Surprisingly, Ramanujacharyulu, who played such a lovely Durbar later, provided only a pedestrian Varali alapana. Niraval came at ‘Sagara Seyanuni’ and the swaras that followed had discernable shades of ‘Semmangudi bani’.
Wedged between the two pieces was a brisk ‘Manasuloni’ (Varamu, Tyagaraja), but the rendition was too fast for that composition.
K.V. Prasad, as always, gentle and unobtrusive, meshed with the vocalist like a gear. What was truly remarkable was the evident enthusiasm of the octogenarian ghatam artist. Age has robbed his fingers of dexterity but has left his spirit intact.