There was harmony in the recital by Parur M.S. Anantharaman, his two sons, M.A. Krishnaswamy and M.A. Sundaresan, and grandson M.S. Ananthakrishnan. R.K. Srikantan gave prominence to raga alapana and the raga sancharas were abundant with manodharma . Melody overflowed in T.N. Krishnan's violin play and the one distinct feature in his style is the continuous flow. His creative thought is so vast that he can express the sangatis very fast.

It is difficult to say which raga alapana presentation was better - Mohanam or Thodi - in the recital of the violin quartet, led by veteran Parur M.S. Anantharaman. Sharing the stage with him were his two sons, M.A. Krishnaswamy and M.A. Sundaresan, and grandson M.S. Ananthakrishnan.

In the case of Mohanam, the senior initiated the alapana which was then picked up by the grandson to follow. In the latter too, Anantharaman began the alapana while the siblings followed in turn to express their individual manodharma, but the technique of their violin play was uniformly same. They focussed more on rhythm and melody which had an arresting quality. When all the four played together, at times, it sounded as though it was only one violin. The role of acoustics could be one reason for this aspect.

In the opening Begada varnam ‘Intha Chala' (Veenai Kuppier), the foursome played with terrific speed in the second part, but they did not lose control. While Anantharaman provided the lead in the brief alapana in Gowlai to present the Mysore Vasudevachar sahityam ‘Pranamamyam', it was Krishnaswamy who took charge of rendering the kriti and swaras in a dominant manner. ‘Chinna Nadena' (Kalanidi-Tyagaraja), ‘Salagalla' (Arabhi-Tyagaraja) and Koteeswara Iyer's ‘Arul Seyya Vendum Ayya' followed next.

The major alapana of Mohanam was taken up next. The typical Parur bani was clearly evident in the alapana and Sundaresan excelled in his foray into the raga. ‘Evarura' was the kriti and having given ample scope for the detailed alapana, the quartet felt there was no need for niraval, and only swarakalpana was played.

When Anantharaman began the alapana of Hamir Kalyani, it sounded as if it was going to be with a large dose of Hindustani. When Sundaresan received the baton from his father, he fully exploited the raga in Hindustani style. But whatever the mode, the melody was supreme and the tuneful kriti offered enormous scope to dwell on this style with enchanting prayogas. Anantharaman kept the violin aside and sang the anupallavi and charanam, for the audience to have a feel of the sahitya.

Thodi was played by all the four and every shade of the raga was presented. This was for the RTP and therefore, the deep-toned tanam followed the alapana. Simply put, it was nothing short of a treat. Instead of pallavi, the quartet played Tyagaraja's ‘Dasarathe' with short swaraprastaras, as it was time for thani. The mridangam accompaniment of Raja Rao was totally in tune with the harmonious sound of the four violins. His thani, in company with ghatam vidwan E.M. Subramaniam was imaginative lively.

In the concert of veteran R.K. Srikantan, raga alapana was given the predominant place in the sequence of presentation of songs. Nowhere in the whole concert was niraval given its due space for any of the kritis. The octogenarian and his disciple Ramakanth painted the picture of each raga lavishly. The raga sancharas were abundant with manodharma and both the vocalist and his deputy did not leave anything in their alapanas, untouched.

When such an elaborate treatment for the ragas was given, they must have felt that it would be superfluous to apportion time for niraval. If Ramakant supplemented the guru's rendition for Sriranjani, for the kriti ‘Brochevarevare' of Tyagaraja, in the case of Sahana, Begada and Mohanam, he had equal or more share in the alapana and swarakalpanas. Here too, Ramakanth was given ample opportunity to showcase his talent.

Ramakanth utilised all those chances to his advantage and if his alapanas were impressive for the imagination, his swarakalpanas were precision-made. The concert, in short, was classicism at its best.

Violinist Chandrasekaran made use of his virtuosity to present the ragas' varied hues. His part while playing swarakalpanas too was marked by his sharp replies. His Sahana, Begada and Mohanam were exemplary. (As he is known for playing the lines of a popular song of the raga, he played the tune of ‘Giridhara Gopala' while essaying Mohanam to the joy of the listeners!) Even when he was offered the chance at the close, he quipped. “Only five minutes are left. Should I?” leaving Srikantan to round off the concert with the Devarnama ‘Noduvathe Kannu' of Purandaradasa.

Umayalpuram Sivaraman, the mridangam maestro, did not let go any opportunity to display his talent. He closely followed the kritis, without let up or hindrance. When there was pause, he filled it. Where there was a need for a pause, he kept his fingers at check. He wove laya patterns while accompanying for kritis with different nadais which drew applause from his rasikas. His thani had a special ring of rhythm and he used all his techniques to make a mark of his own. When Sivaraman handles the percussion department, any upa-pakkavadyam is redundant. Ganjira vidwan Sree Sundarkumar could not be heard much during kriti renditions, but showed his vidwat in the thani.

The moment violin vidwan T.N. Krishnan and his daughter Viji Natarajan settled down on the dais, the maestro greeted everyone a Merry Christmas. He told his audience that he was going to begin and opened with a traditional varnam (‘Vanajakshi' - Kalyani).

There was one distinct feature in the violin playing of TNK. While some play with a kind of tentativeness while essaying raga alapana, with a pause between one phrase and the other, in Krishnan's presentation, it is a continuous flow. His creative thought is so vast that he can express the sangatis so fast. Another advantage is the tonal strength of his violin and his mellina-vallina variations that come so easily in his play. Another point is that he holds the violin a little away from the microphone.

TNK played Sriragam with its ingrained piety and presented one of the Pancharatna kritis ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu' of Tyagaraja. It was Purvikalyani next and both Krishnan and Viji shared the detailed alapana for ‘Gnanamosagarada.' At one stage, it looked as though the senior was guiding the junior, but the latter had her own imaginative sancharas to register and did not lag behind in contributing her manodharma to enrich the raga rendition.

When swarakalpanas were taken up, both were determined to present them at a galloping speed. The slow paced Bhairavi swarajati ‘Amba Kamakshi' of Syama Sastri followed immediately after the aesthetic alapana. It was like the gait of an elephant in a temple procession. The niraval covered some more areas of the raga and the swaraprastaras began to dominate the proceedings. It was virtual competition between the father and the daughter in giving expression to the swaras and at one point, Viji simply scored in a fast pace which the visibly happy guru acknowledged.

It was then time for thani. Krishnan announced that they had been playing only Adi tala that he decided to offer the percussionists ‘misram' for thani. Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam who played gently all along for the kritis, using the idanthalai for more sound effect and caressing the right side of the mridangam to produce softer sollus, found his hands untied. The ghumkis and beats poured out for nearly twenty minutes and the aggressive display of his vidwat, which his rasikas expect from him, was in full play. Vaikkom Gopalakrishnan, the ghatam vidwan, had to match him in his artistry and he creditably acquitted himself.

When Ragam Tanam Pallavi was taken up, it was Kapi that the maestro chose for elaborate alapana and tanam. To listen to tanam in the violin is a pleasure and with the tonally rich instrument that TNK uses, it was a double treat. In the pallavi, he chose to design the swarakalpanas in the format of ragamalika.

The Andal Pasuram ‘Vanga Kadal Kadaintha' in Surutti followed after a short alapana of the raga. The most unexpected was ‘Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way' that followed as if to show the catholicity of the maestro on the occasion of Christmas. He regaled his audience with another English note made famous by Madurai Mani Iyer.

His closing piece was an evocative Sindubhairavi and the kriti was ‘Ramanai Tharuvai' of Arunachala Kavi. Sensing that there were five more minutes to go, Krishnan and Viji joyfully played the mangalam in full and none stood up till it was over. The artists got a standing ovation.

(charukesiviswanathan@yahoo.co.in)