Kanyakumari and Embar Kannan presented a concert at once lively and scholarly.

Veteran violinist Kanyakumari and her illustrious disciple, Embar Kannan, were absolutely delightful in their concert. The duo was lively and scholarly at the same time. Maintaining a tight grip over the tempo of the concert, Kanyakumari and Kannan sliced the duration judiciously into the various segments, never losing sight of optimum exposure. Melancholic ragas like Thodi and Kiravani carried the same cheer and vivacity as Vijayanagari and Devagandari.

The start was actually subdued – Kanada varnam, ‘Panchamathanga’ (Malahari, Dikshitar) were conventional without fanfare. The arrival of Thodi, followed by Syama Sastri’s swarajati provided the first spark, with Kanyakumari choosing a tempo in between madhyamakala and vilambakala for the kriti that suited instrumental play better. In Vijayanagari (‘Vijayambike,’ Muthiah Baghavatar), both violinists complemented each other superbly, with interesting (but not frenzied) kuraippu swarams. The sounds from the contact mike of Kanyakumari and the natural sound from Kannan brought a nice two-instrument effect. Mridangist Mannargudi Eswaran deserves kudos for quickly internalising the spirit of the concert and using soft fingers and aligning his ‘sollu’ eloquently through the concert.

‘Tulasamma’ (Tyagaraja) heralded poignancy in the middle – the sangatis were clean and allowed for serene enjoyment of the raga and the kriti. Kanyakumari’s Kiravani had the classical stamp written all over it – both the violinists kept it at a short and sweet plane – as it is often difficult to avoid repetitive phrases in the raga, kriti and niraval in instrumental context and a longish raga sketch starts to sound monotonous. The brief tanam did not mutate into Pallavi as Kanyakumari and Kannan played the majestic, “Kaligiyunte” (Tyagaraja) with the accent on the swara sequences and the ragamalika that followed. The swara kuraippu in two speeds was enjoyably built to end at “ri” (crowned often by sa ga ri) and the articulation was intelligent.

It was an avalanche of ragas subsequently with Revati, Hindolam, Abogi, Kapi, Nagaswaravali, Sivaranjani, etc. that made up the popular portrait. Madhuvanti (‘Kanda Naal’) was an apt choice for the tukkada segment. Eswaran on the mridangam played the perfect foil, including his crafting of a tani with sowkhyam elements.