Bhairavi showcased Sreevalsan Menon's vocal prowess. Sincere and simple are epithets that best descibed Lakshmi Rangarajan's concert. Kunnakkudy Balamuralikrishna's offering was engaging. G. SWAMINATHAN
The scintillating melody of Bhairavi filled the auditorium like a gossamer web; the pregnant pauses, the slow swirls, the loaded karvais and subtle akaras powerfully integrated into the alapana led to Syama Sastri's peerless piece ‘Sari Eevvaramma'. Sreevalsan J. Menon's presentation was perfect and he picked up the line ‘Madhava Sodari Gowri'for niraval and completed with vivid kalpanaswaras. In fact, Menon's concert assumed full prominence only when he took up Bhairavi.
An enviably robust voice, profundity in music and a prime time slot were not just enough to capture the interest of the crowd. Choice of kritis and the ragas are also vital. Sreevalsan's opening pada varnam in Thodi by Swati Tirunal, ‘Varasiki Vahana' of Tyagaraja in a rather stale Supradeepam, a rough sketch of Kedaram prelude to the not so well known ‘Tyagaraja Gurum Asraye' by M.D. Ramanathan, failed to give fillip to the concert.
Even the generally vivacious Poorvikalyani fell short of expectations and the composition here was once again a vilamba kala one -- ‘Ekkalathilum Unnai' by Tiruvarur Ramasami Pillai. The swara segment with more of first kala swaras than madyama kala dampened the proceedings further.
Dikshitar's ‘Govardana Gireesam' in Hindolam brought the first traces of colour and the power of Sreevalsan's vocal prowess. That picked up further in Bhairavi.
Hamir Kalyani is undoubtedly a charming raga, and Sreevalsan could infuse many quaint phrases within a short time in the alapana followed by a rather slothful tanam. The pallavi in Misra Chapu ‘Ganalola Deena Balananda' should have been more vibrant; however, it had finesse but not much pep. The niraval and trikalam went precisely with a ragamalika swaras in Dhanyasi, Saveri, and Sahana.
C.N. Chandrasekaran on the violin was another let down; his responses ranged from tepid to lacklustre. Trichur C. Narendran and Pudukkottai N. Ramachandran were efficient on the mridangam and ghatam but could hardly do anything special to generate momentum in the subdued proceedings.
Lakshmi Rangarajan's concert was sincere, simple and straight forward without any spectacular frills. But one should not misconstrue this for simplistic. The kutcheri format was meticulously adhered to via presentations of the kritis with prominence on their merit and content.
Lakshmi's two major offerings Sankarabharanam and Simhendramadhyamam showcased her careful vision and concern on quality time. Sankarabharanam's native charm was detailed through traditionally structured phrases and burnished with simple aesthetics. ‘Saroja Dalanetri' of Syama Sastri and the niraval and swaras on ‘Samagana Vinodhini' may not be called exceptional but were definitely elegant.
Similarly, the Simhendramadyamam raga exposition was done in two instalments adding greater attention to the finer ends of the raga; the tanam was well designed directing to the pallavi framed in Kanda Triputa; ‘Sangeetha Pithamaham Sri Purandara' received all the ornamentations required for a typical pallavi including ragamalika swaras.
Lakshmi's lucidity in delivery combined with organised approach to raga essays and swara slices were highlights of these two main pieces.
In the opening session, Lakshmi detailed Durbar for the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Munduvenuga'.
The surfeit of sangatis in the anupallavi is worth mentioning and Lakshmi did full justice to them with her quite sugary, compliant voice. These favourable qualities reflected in ‘Ranga Puravihara' (Brindavana Saranga) of Muthuswami Dikshitar and ‘Arivar Yaar Unnai' (Mukhari) by Arunchala Kavi, the worthy additions and Lakshmi's veneration were also evident in her deliverance.
For balancing these serene numbers, there were a couple of light kritis ‘Telisirama Chinthanatho' in Poornachandrika (Tyagaraja) and ‘Narayana Nalinayada' in Sama (Papanasam Sivan).
Mullaivasal Chandramouli backed Lakshmi on the violin. His responses in the initial stages were somewhat lukewarm but picked up better posture in the later part of the concert. Percussion of A.S. Ranganathan on the mridangam and Thirukannapuram J. Sowrirajan on the morsing was even-handed.
The most conspicuous feature of Kunnakudy Balamuralikrishna's recital was his dynamism. He was continuously on his toes in chasing the kritis, alapana and swaras. Perhaps age plays a major role in this attitude. But then he also pushed the Ragam Tanam Pallavi to the fag end of the concert. Choosing Durbar, he spun the phrases in quick succession and spent some time on the tanam and took the pallavi.
I believe that there are no rules in The Music Academy that the performer should not give the details of his presentation especially the RTP. Balamuralikrishna is not the only one. Most of the performers ignore enlightening the audience about their choice of raga or kriti. It will be appreciated if the organisers and the performers make it a point to mention rare ragas, compositions and the rhythmic aspects in future, if not for others, at least for the RTP!
The Kiravani kriti ‘Kaligiyunte Gada' was taken up as the central piece. Here too, one could see that the raga expansion of Balamuralikrishna was pitched more on swirls and eddies. Kiravani's inherent melody and blues were the causalities in the bargain. Technically and theoretically, Balamuralikrishna's offering was faultless and engaging. Aesthetic aspects were inadvertently given a slip. The niraval at ‘Baguga Sriragu' also had more dash than delicacy.
V. Sanjeev on the violin compensated to a limited extent on the steadiness, softer parts and sowkya passages in the alapana of Kiravani. The sub-main Poorvikalyani was quite vibrant and Manikavasagar's Thiruvasagam ‘Moyyar Thadam Poigai' attached little stress on empathy and poetic beauty. The swara strings of Balamurali were interesting in Kalyani, Poorvikalyani and Kiravani as they were always brisk and upbeat. ‘Mayamma' in Ahiri of Syama Sastri was the solitary number which threw light on the slower side of singing by this young singer. ‘Ganapathe' in Kalyani (Dikshitar) and ‘Chede Buddi' in Atana (Tyagaraja) at the outset and ‘Sevikka Vendum Ayya' in Andolika (Muthuthandavar) in the middle provided hardly any possibility for Balamuralikrishna to render them at leisure since the kritis themselves carry impetus.
Sanjeev's violin replies were by and large pleasing and soft but at the same time met the zing of the main artist. R. Ramesh and V. Suresh were epitomes of enthusiasm and their thani avartanam was a hyperactive affair.