Lakshmi Sreeram’s was a well-researched effort.
It may sound presumptuous, when speaking of a senior artiste with over 20 years of experience in singing on the stage, but Lakshmi Sreeram has risen tangibly in the ladder of musical consciousness in the past two years since this listener heard her. Savouring a work of art is a holistic process. The choice of ragas, talas and composers, the way these are strung together for presentation, the faithful rendering of the compositions, at one end, and at the other, the degree of improvisations over the original, the proportion of time allotted to each piece - all these count. Add to these that ineffable something which makes for the final appeal to the soul, which one could define loosely as commitment, dedication and, in our system, devotion.
There is no music or dance if the performer cannot merge herself with nadabrahman. In our opinion, Lakshmi's effort came very close to accomplishing this. Her Pantuvarali alapana, preceding the kriti 'Siva, Siva, Siva Enarada' in Rupakam - as indeed every other item in her collection for the day - was a serious matter to the singer. Her voice, which had opened out fully in the first 10 minutes, gave evidence of requisite practice, sound in rigour, sound in tonal depth, with richness in harmonics which made for timbre, particularly prominent at the lower pitches.
Lakshmi's focus appeared to address every item she handled in an attitude of personal research, to ensure she was getting the best out of it. Oblivious as she was of her surroundings, including her accompaniments, the violin and mridangam followed suit commendably.
Akkarai Sornalatha was dependable, as always, and Parthasarathy (mridangam) judicious in playing without being intrusive. Niraval at 'aagama mula' was elegant and trimmed suitably, with niraval dominant over kalpanaswara lent a touch of freshness in the departure from the common practice of making the piece heavily maths-loaded. A five-minute excursion into the alapana of Sama started off with a pronounced stress on the madhyama swara alone, in itself sufficient to place the raga (when rendered the way the singer did).
The kriti 'Kanamum maravaade nenjame' of Ambujam Krishna) was rendered with feeling. Charukesi, bloomed into a full tree through the sthaayees from manthara, with anchoring swaras ga, dha/nee, Ri enjoying equitable distribution of time, to introduce Maharaja Swati Tirunal's 'Kripayaa paalaya,' in misra chapu.
With a brief stretch of swara at the pallavi on the swara pa, she handed the stage to Parthasarathy's tani, a very competent effort, specialising in quite complex patterns of 'perattu sorkall.'. Both 'Kali yuga Varda' and 'Bhaavayaami Gopala Baalakam' brimmed with bhakti.
One aspect on which Lakshmi could bestow nore care is in sustaining her power at the higher notes on karuvais, giving the same fullness as her flawless brigas and durita sancharas.