The 37th Art Festival of Kartik Fine Arts commenced with a violin recital by the father-son duo Dr. L. Subramaniam and Ambi Subramaniam. The tambura sruti permeating the auditorium set the mood. The silence too had a meditative quality. The brief interval took this writer back to the 1970s when AIR was the only source to listen to classical music, besides live concerts. Record players were a luxury. Oft repeated in its Isai Amudham schedule was the LP record of the violin trio brothers L. Vaidyanathan, L. Sankar and L. Subramaniam to the accompaniment of legendary Palghat Mani Iyer. Glued to the radio sets and listening to the Ada Tala Bhairavi varnam played by them in three speeds was always thrilling.
That evening, the screen went up and Subramaniam introduced his accompanists including Tambura Venkatraman, who was his PT master, a strict one, while Subramaniam was a student of P.S. High School.
Preceding the Navaragamalika varnam of Patnam Subramania Iyer, LS regaled the audience with strains of all the nine ragas. The shift from one raga to the next — from Kedaram to Shankarabharanam to Sri — was smooth and seamless. When the rasikas yearned for more, the duo started the varnam and played it in five speeds with aplomb.
Yes, a tough task by any standards. Young Ambi, moving to the mandhra string now and then, was a stunner. The Hamsadhwani alapana saw LS coax and cajole his instrument to produce mesmerising phrases; then came Vatapi. The swara segment was sheer exhibition of the duo’s dexterity. Doubling and tripling the speed in the kalpanaswara robbed the soporific mood they had earlier created.
Shiva Shiva in Kharaharapriya, a composition of Lakshiminarayana, LS’ father, came next in rupakam which again had a swara segment. Close on its heels came the tani.
Ramanamurthy (mridangam), Latha Ramachar (ganjira) and Satya Sai (morsing) combined well to present a neat tani.
Raga Sindhubhairavi, the concluding piece, was virtually a raga rasanubhava with LS unfolding the rich content of the raga’s layers. His presentation of the kriti, Venkatachala nilayam, took this writer to Ananda Nilayam, the sanctum Lord of the Seven Hills.
The enjoyment was short lived as the duo once again broke into their swara circus. The nadanubhava was lost and this writer was back in Alipiri, the foothills of Tirumala. Isn’t it time LS projects the nada yogi in him in full for the benefit of discerning rasikas? One of the best aspects of the whole concert was the absolute kalapramanam.