Vocal or instrumental, it was melody all the way.
The combined effort of Punya Srinivas playing the veena and Arjun Ganesh handling the mridangam accompaniment for her put up a neat and pleasant performance. The first impression one got was of seasoned players with good control over their instruments and perceptible musical sensitivity, and happily, this lasted till the end of the concert.
Varnam in Durbar at a brisk pace flagged off the event, followed by Saveri in misrachapu, with a few elegant niraval and kalpanaswara patterns at the charanam. Punya's exposition of raga Nalinakaanti displayed excellent imagination in the short span allotted to it, as she traversed the entire length of the instrument on the first string, touching the nodal notes of the raga with great precision, even at high speed - a delight to the ear.
‘Manavyaala kim’ followed this as expected. The artist seemed to frolic with the instrument much in the manner as with a child, in love. Though played fast, this bit had the raga vibrating in it in every phrase.
The remaining 40 minutes of the concert was given entirely to Khambodi. The various sancharas in the alapana only demonstrated her knack for distilling the essence of every raga and bottling it in the small space available. Here was music centred on melodic value.
A notable feature was the economy adopted in plucking the string, and dexterous work with two fingers of the left hand, sometimes together and sometimes independently. There was impeccable purity of the notes, delivered with matching sweetness on a foundation of amazing musical sensitivity.
Ten minutes of Khambodi, sounding much longer, was the perfect platform to launch Tyagaraja's 'Evari maata' in a double-beat Adi taalam, the ideal composition with enough profundity to go after such a pilot. Arjun used plenty of sarvalaghu in perfect tune with the ethos of the playing. A novel pattern of three khandakorvais in tisra nadai marked the end of the kalpanaswaras, which appeared to be a trailer of the tani avartanam of Arjun Ganesh to come. There was exhilirating fireworks in Arjun's independent sketch, beginning with tisra nadai, with Punya joining in the last few maatras, concluding a phase of eminently enjoyable music.
Vidya Kalyanaraman's programme had a modest coverage of just five numbers but was packed with an abundance of music, rich and pure. From ‘Vadera' (Tyagaraja, Pantuvarali, Adi) through ‘Budham aasrayaami' (Muthuswamy Dikshitar's navagraha kriti in Nattakurinji, Misrajaati Jhampa), ‘Bhogeendra saayinam' (Swati Tirunal, Kuntalavaraali, Khandachaapu) and 'Ninne nammi naamu' (Shyama Sastry, Thodi, Misrachaapu) to ‘Irakkam varaamal…' (Gopalakrishna Bharati, Behag), the whole recital was a delicious package of exquisite experience, with melody and bhakti rolled, bringing a lump in the throat every now and then. The stamp of five master composers in Carnatic music was seen; five contrasting ragas and five different taalams stood out - a well-designed programme wrapped up with deep musical sensitivity.
Parur M.S. Ananthakrishnan joined in with his violin to embellish her efforts in the melody and Akshay Ananthapadmanabhan punctuated it appropriately with the mridangam. Smooth excursions, long karuvais, in a rich powerful voice marked Vidya's essay in Nattakurinji. Strong lines of bhaava revealed the grand navagraha kriti, and one commends her commitment to give the best of herself to the kriti. The mridangam took advantage of the Khandam in the enlivening song 'Bhogeendra saayinam', which was radiant in the treatment it got from the singer.
With the preface 'ga,ri ga ma, ga, ri sa,,,' Vidya quickly sank into the sedate Thodi mood, taking her listeners along. Ananthakrishnan carried the ethos pleasantly, and as the auditorium was submerged in the melody of Todi, came ‘Ninne nammi naamu in a majestic misrachapu at 3/4.. It was impossible to miss registering the valuable enhancement that Akshay was pumping into the effort for the utterly palatable aural inputs that came from the mridangam. At the point of niraval at ‘Kamaakshi kancha dalaayataakshi,' niraval, slow and fast, and kalpanasvaras, slow and fast , made a sumptuous fare, leading to the tani avartanam.
Beginning with the pattern ‘dhimi taka dheem,/taka dheem', Akshay took it to a crescendo with ‘Dheems' and 'Dhalaangs' flying round in a riot of melody and' rhythm offering quite a feast to the listener. The depth of feeling in the last item in Behag ‘Irakkam varaamal ponadenna' was so intense that long minutes after the concert was over, the listener found himself in a trance.