The veena recital of senior veena vidushi Prabhavathi Ganesan was indeed a pure musical joy for a total span of 150 minutes in the morning. The vidushi played continuously with a break only for the mandatory thani, as she had no violin accompaniment to get respite between alapanas or kirtanas. But that did not deter the artist and her enthusiasm was visible throughout.
There was a marked presence of westerners for the concert which revealed that the instrumental music has more appeal for them.
The varnam in Khamas, ‘Mathe Malayadwaja Pandiya’ of Muthaiah Bhagavatar with cascading swaras served as a brisk opener for the concert, with unobtrusive percussive support from the experienced Thanjavur Kumar on the mridangam and G. Ravichandran on the ghatam.
‘Vinayaka Ninu Vina Brochutaku’ with a short preface of alapana in Hamsadhwani followed with scope for precise swarakalpanas. The Surutti alapana was meditative and Prabhavathi Ganesan presented the kriti ‘Sri Venkatagirisamalogaye’ of Muthuswami Dikshitar in madhyamakala for relaxed listening pleasure.
When the audience was settled, the artist took up an elaborate Purvikalyani raga (Shadvidhamargini according to Tyagaraja) alapana and there were absolute moments of joy with fairly long sangatis to add weight to the raga alapana. It must be said to the credit of the vainika that there was never a discordant note in her meetus or sudden jerks to spoil the continuity. It was continuous flow of sheer melody through her mastery of playing technique. Tyagaraja’s ‘Gnanamosagaradha’ was the kriti she played with niraval and swaras for the charanam lines.
With a brief alapana in Kuntalavarali, the vainika presented ‘Bhogindra Sayinam’ of Swati Tirunal, before she embarked on an exhaustive alapana of raga Sankarabharanam, which happened to be the main piece. The elucidation of the raga was so full of manodharma that the overall effect it gave was a sumptuous fare. The niraval was for the charanam line ‘Korivachinavarigellanu’ and sustained the tempo with the fluid swarakalpanas.
Ragam Tanam Pallavi is best suited for veena for the melodic effect it creates with rhythmic meetus. The artist chose to present a double raga format – Mohanam and Kalyanavasantham, both musically exciting. She played Mohanam raga first and then forayed into Kalyanavasantham. She played both ragas back and forth alternatively without any slip-up. The gliding was very smooth. Similar was her method while presenting tanam and pallavi line ‘Mohana Muralidhara Gopala, Mohana Murahara Giridhara’ alternating between Mohanam and Kalyanavasantham.
The thani by senior mridangam artist Thanjavur Kumar and his partner G. Ravichandran on ghatam was marked for the feather-touch percussion of the former and crystal clear beats of the latter.
A Behag padam and ‘Krishna Nee Begane Baro’ were the closing items of the veena recital which showcased the artist’s virtuosity.
The entire ensemble on the stage consisted of hitherto unknown faces – V.K. Raman the main flautist, accompanied by C.N. Thyagarajan on the violin, P. Kripakaran (UK) on the mridangam and T.A. Ramanujam on the morsing.
The majestic kriti of Jayachamarajendra Wodaiyar, ‘Sri Mahaganapatim Bajeham’ was the opening piece that emanated from the small flute of the artist. It was simple rendering of the kriti without much fanfare. For those (including this reviewer) who thought that there is not much scope for doing alapana of raga like Chandrajothi, it was a surprise. The flautist dwelt on the raga in full scale with rolling gamakas thrown in between. The response of the violinist was very short and the expected kriti ‘Bhagayanayya’ of Tyagaraja came as a pleasant offer, with brief swarakalpanas.
Raman took up Subbaraya Sastri’s ‘Shankari Neeve’ in Begada and the low-pitched start required a longish flute to deal with the kriti.
The Bhairavi raga alapana was the piece de resistance of the concert. The flautist took it up in great detail and when the exhaustive exercise was completed, it gave a kind of fulfilment. There were no clipped phrases or short abrupt notes anywhere and the sound of the flutes that he handled alternately was resonating throughout the hall – thanks to the superb acoustic arrangement. Dikshitar’s ‘Balagopala Palayasumam’ was the kriti the flautist chose for the day for elaborate presentation, with focus on niraval and swarakalpanas. The violinist’s version should serve as a stimulant to spur the imagination of the main artist. He took up the anupallavi line ‘Neelaneeradha Sareera’ for his detailed extension of the raga with his vast manodharma, for niraval followed by swaraprastara.
The thani was short and the mridangam player P. Kripakaran and morsing artist T.A. Ramanujam shared the rhythmic segment with brief exchanges.
For Ragam Tanam Pallavi, Raman chose Mohanakalyani (in Khanda Triputa) and he coaxed his blowing skill using flutes of different kinds to present varied tonal changes befitting the pitch he required to dwell on. Mohanakalyani is a lilting raga and the flautist exploited it fully in his effort. The violin response was, unfortunately, brief and the rasika felt that the violinist could have showed his creative imagination in dealing with this exquisite raga. The line was ‘Vinayakam Vigneswaram Vande Nirantaram Varam Varadam’ (which the flautist sang to demonstrate the Pallavi structure). Following the brief swarakalpana, the flautist’s attempt to present an impressive crescendo proved not only challenging but worthwhile.
The concluding item, a sweet Sindhubairavi thillana was peppy and revealed the skill of the artist’s felicity in handling fast tempo studded with enchanting melodious notes.