That Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan is a maestro was proved beyond doubt. Nithyasree Mahadevan delivered a power-packed performance. Mambalam Sisters handled raga delineations with consummate ease.

For those who dared the inclement weather and made it to Narada Gana Sabha, it was a vintage treat of classical music. Although the season is still young, Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan performed as though he were half way through it.

Compromising on the content depending upon the stage and the crowd has never been his style. The sparse crowd did not deter him. After the Sahana varnam, TNS surprised everyone with ‘Vatapi' (Hamsadhwani). He presented an intelligent swaraprastara that's never been heard before.

Asaveri was showcased through a sloka in praise of the moon. The veteran violinist M. Chandrasekaran presented a brilliant synopsis of the raga. Being a Monday, ‘Chandram Bhaja' (Dikshitar) was an apt choice. Seshagopalan put his akhara style to test while researching raga Nagasvarali. Traversing the octaves with brigas that landed precisely, TNS's singing went on to prove that he is a natural musician. Inspired by Chandrasekaran's playing, TNS could not resist the urge to explore Nagasvarali's beauty a little more through ‘Shree Shankara Guruvaram' (Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer).

‘Entha Mudhdho' (Bindumalini-Tyagaraja) and ‘Mayamma' (Ahiri-Syama Sastri), each at a different pace, added colour. ‘Mayamma' in particular, with elongated notes, was brought out with telling effect and virtually transported one to the precincts of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Vellore Ramabhadran's playing shows no signs of slowing down. An unobtrusive style has been his forte for ages.

TNS relies on his manodharma and probably this makes him experiment on stage. That evening, he presented an elaborate Vijayasaraswathi (‘Charanam Vijayasaraswathi'-Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar) with the enthusiasm of a young research scholar in his lab. The raga, kriti and the swara segments were spontaneous. The chittaswaram for this kriti, which he has composed, was breathtaking. Seshagopalan's next foray was into Sankarabharanam.

The cerebral musician in him demonstrated the grammar of Sankarabharanam. The thin and thick of the swara phrases with tradition intact and an open mouthed singing provided for an aural treat. Chandrasekaran did not lag behind in his reply. ‘Swaragasudharasa' (Tyagaraja) had him meandering into niraval as though the raga alapana was not enough. The thani by Ramabhadran and Sivaramakrishnan (ghatam) that followed the gripping kalapanaswara was simple and brief. TNS's hunger for music was not satiated that he went in for a ragamalika viruttam comprising Tilang, Begada, Saveri, Hamir Kalyani and Surati, all oozing with the ragas' beauty. ‘Vanga Kadal Kadandhu' (Tiruppavai) was the obvious choice. He concluded the recital with a Tiruppugazh in Behag.

With the rains unrelenting, the dams in Tamil Nadu are almost full. NITHYASREE MAHADEVAN'S energy levels could be compared to the water gushing out of the sluices of reservoirs. Irrespective of the sabha or season, her energy level is consistent and she proved it once again at Narada Gana Sabha.

Beginning with the Kedaragowlai varnam in the company of B. Raghavendra Rao (violin), P. Satishkumar (mridangam) and Bangalore Srisailam (ghatam), she then presented Swati Tirunal's beautiful composition in Revagupti, ‘Gopalaka Pahimam', which was soaked in devotion.

‘Sujana Jeevana' (Khamas) reminded one of her grandmother D.K. Pattammal. The way she interpreted Dhanyasi step by step in a sedate manner reminded one of Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar's several 100+ innings. Akhara phrases were put to maximum use.

B.Raghavendra Rao's reply was on a par with the standard set by her. Singing the anupallavi first , she took some time before reaching the pallavi line for Tyagaraja's ‘Mokshamu' (Saramathy).

The evening's main raga, Hemavathy called as Desisimharavam by Dikshitar, was again delineated at a pace keeping the song ‘Sri Kanthimathim' in mind. Replete with brilliant phrases, the raga was built by Nithyasree with ingenuity. Rao was a tad faster. Another striking aspect of Rao is his still posture on the stage. The only movement was of his hands that are engaged in playing. The niraval was meaningful while the kalpanaswara exchanges were breezy.

P.Satishkumar and Bangalore Srisailam had interesting exchanges during the thani segment.

The Priya Sisters could not take stage due to illness. So the normally busy MAMBALAM SISTERS (they are slated to sing in the Tamil Isai Vizha of the sabha on 27{+t}{+h} December) replaced the Priya Sisters; this only ensured that there was no sag in the standard of the concert.

R. Chithra began the evening with the sub-main Kalyani. Years of training under B.V. Raman–B.V. Lakshmanan and a swelling repertoire helped the duo handle raga delineations with consummate ease. The more kritis you learn in a particular raga, the more authentic will be the treatise of the raga. Thus, Chithra's sketch was stunning. Even though they may not have been prepared for this unscheduled concert, the duo did full justice to their rich selection for the evening slot.

Kudos to the sisters for choosing to sing ‘Amma Ravamma' (Tyagaraja), for this kriti has not been doing the rounds quite for some time. An inherent lilt in the song brings about a glitter in the atmosphere. Niraval in the anucharanam sans butchering of the lyric with a liberal suite of kalpanaswaras, was the icing on the cake.

P. Satishkumar's splendid anticipation in the company of B. Shreesundarkumar (ganjira) took the concert to the next level. ‘Chiththam Irangadhenayya' (Sahana-Sivan) was packed with emotion while ‘Garuda Gamana' (Nagasvarali) was fast paced, pepping up the atmosphere for the main Thodi essay by R.Vijayalakshmi. Its grandeur was brought out with aplomb. She did not leave any stone unturned during her effort. Sruthi suddham combined with a diligent attempt made it stand out.

Seasoned violinist M.A. Krishnaswamy was his usual self and his offering was brilliant. The niraval and kalpanaswaras (‘Koluvamaragada'-Tyagaraja) were embellished with some intelligent accompanying style of P. Satishkumar on the mridangam. He continued this during the thani. His imaginative variations threw challenges to young B. Shreesundarkumar (ganjira) who came out unscathed. The result was a royal treat of rhythmic exposition for the rasikas.