Pantula Rama did not exploit her vocal range to the maximum. Vainika Revathy Krishna did not delve deep into the ragas she chose. Prema Rangarajan's swara suites were well planned.

Dr. Pantula Rama is a rising star in the Carnatic Music Concert horizon, and evidence of it was seen at her concert. That evening she was accompanied by M.S.N Murthy on the violin, Melakkaveri K. Balaji on the mridangam and Malaikottai R.M. Deenadayalu on morsing.

Rama opened her concert with ‘Najeeva Dhara', the grand Bilahari raga composition of Tyagaraja in Adi Talam. As a starter this piece did not help in the take off of the concert. ‘Ardhanariswaram' of Muthuswami Dikshitar in Kumudakriya, Rupaka Talam, was the next choice. Kumudakriya is a variation of Pantuvarali sans panchamam with an inherent soft melody. Rama undertook a fairly lengthy alapana of this ragam, which did not provide a favourable effect on the concert impact. An alapana of this ragam can be taken up as an academic exercise rather than for the concert platform. Kalpanaswaras were also rendered but this also was felt to be a trifle overdose.

The Adi Tala Tyagaraja composition ‘Raminchura Revarura' in Suboshini was a crisp rendition. ‘Natanam Seyyum' in Kedaragowlai in Rupakam of Ramaswami Sivan is a rare piece to come by in concerts. After an alapana of Kedaragowlai, Rama presented the song.

Before indulging in an alapana of Bhairavi as a prelude to the swarajati of Syama Sastri, in Misra Chaapu, the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Kalala Nerchina' in Deepakam and Adi Talam was a good interlude. The Bhairavi raga alapana though lengthy left the listeners still wanting as the depth of the Bhairavi ragam remained unravelled. The niraval on the line ‘Shyama Krishna Sahodari' was the first such exercise in the concert. The pallavi of the RTP was structured in Chaturasra Jati Ata talam, the ragam for this being Mohanam. Terming the pallavi as gruha bheda Pallavi, the artist revealed three Ragas; Mohanam shifting the gruha to Gandhara Hindolam and moving to Rishaba Brindavana Saranga. The sahityam was also appropriately chosen- ‘Nannupalimpa Vamma Samagana', the first two words in Mohanam, the second in Hindolam and the third one in Brindava Saranga. This pallavi rendering showed perhaps virtuosity but was deficient in aesthetic appeal. In the process, Hindolam was perceptible but Brindavana Saranga was evasive. The percussionists acquitted themselves creditably in the thani that followed.

The concluding piece was a tillana in Kanada. Endowed with a facile voice that is capable of fast brigas and deep gamakas, Rama was indulgent more in the fast sancharas rather than a deeper gamaka-rich fare or a balanced blend of both in this concert. All the raga essays appeared to be surface skimming. M.S.N Murthy's versions were certainly more wholesome.

When veena concerts are becoming fewer by the day, it was a pleasant surprise that the Academy had featured a veena artist for the first evening concert of the season. Because of rare concert opportunities, the number of persons taking seriously to veena playing is also dwindling and one is apprehensive to whether this instrument would go off the concert platform in the near future.

Revathy Krishna, accompanied by Prapancham Ravindran on the mridangam and Tiruchi K.Murali on the ghatam, commenced her concert with Lalgudi's Nalinakanti varnam in adi talam. Next came a Nattai raga alapana followed by ‘Sri Maha Ganapathe,' a composition of Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri. The Gowdamalhar Rupaka Tala composition of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar was crisply played without any frills. ‘Anuragamule', the Tyagaraja kriti in Saraswathi, Rupaka Talam, had a dose of raga alapana and kalpanaswaras. Being a Wednesday, the artist had obviously chosen Muthuswami Dikshitar's ‘Budham Asrayami' in Natakurinji, Misra Jampa Talam. This piece was handled by Revathy after an alapana on the ragam but without kalpanaswaras.

In the Lalitha raga alapana before Syama Sastri”s ‘Nannubrovu Lalitha' in Misra Chaapu Talam, the over usage of nishadam as a nyasa swaram was not expressive. ‘Rangapura Vihara' in Brindavana Saranga of Muthuswami Dikshitar was next in line. The blatant use of Kakali Nishadam in the ascending scale was jarring. In authentic versions of the composition, the position of nishada, which is kaisikhi appears a trifle elevated and this certainly is not kakali.

The RTP was in Kalyani Adi Talam 2 kalai. After the pallavi session, even though the artist had listed seven pieces in the tukkada section, for want of time she played only two – ‘Ennakavi Padinalum' in Nilamani Adi Talam of Adiseshayyar and the Mand tillana of Lalgudi Jayaraman.

Veena is an instrument from which rich gamaka-oriented music is expected. The listener of this concert was disappointed on this score as this was lacking. Perhaps as the concert was an evening slot, senior one, the audience had high expectations. The raga essays were bereft of the core lakshana sancharas or phrasings of the ragas. Her attempts might have been to closely adhere to classicism but what was evident was an inherent lighter vein. The instrument was also apparently giving some problems as certain swara sthanas did not align well with the sruti; a misaligned fret probably. The accompanying mridangam and ghatam bolstered the concert.

Prema Rangarajan assiduously sticks to tradition. There was a sense of simplicity in her performance. While most artists fail in time management, especially when it comes to Ragam Tanam Pallavi, Prema neatly dedicated about 45 minutes for this intense exercise. Her raga choice was Hindolam which was presented in two parts in the traditional manner followed by tanam and a pallavi intricately set with Chatusra Triputa with two different nadais; the poorvangam (first segment) in Khanda nadai and uthrangam (second segment) in Chatusra nadai. The pallavi ‘Raja Mathangi Paavani' was given the mandatory treatment of niraval, trikalam and embellished with ragamalika swaras.

Kalyani was prominently executed before the RTP and the composition was Tyagaraja's ‘Enduko Nee Manasu'. Here, Prema opted for detailing on the line ‘Tarakanama Paratpara', and the swaras with nishadam as the centre went on a systematic slant and shipshape moves. Her swara suites were well designed and not just directionless exercises. Their combinations and build-up were educative and highlighted the finer and artistic strength of the raga.

Sriranjani has a special glamour and this was fully elicited in Prema's raga essay. In her reply on the violin, Padma Shankar added extra charm with many colourful motifs. ‘Sri Dum Durge' by Muthuswami Dikshitar was rendered with veneration with weight added with niraval and swaras at ‘Dundubi Vadya Veda.'

Padma Shankar's violin support was another asset for Prema. She was composed in her responses. Ganapathyraman on the mridangam was aided by Bhagyalakshmi M. Krishna on morsing, the first instance where this scribe saw a woman play this difficult upa pakkavadyam. Their support was unassuming. ‘Isai Padi Magizha' in Charukesi by N.S. Chidambaram and ‘Narayana Namo' in Chenchuriti by Annamacharya were engaging numbers although less heard. But it is little depressing to note that such well planned concerts draw only a few rasikas.