The piano is regal. And so is the stature and legend of composers whose notes play on it. A public performance is, naturally, nerve-wracking. At the Triveni Kala Sangam recently, Vedant Khaitan and Pranav Dalmia, students of well-known pianist Justin McCarthy, made their solo stage debuts.
Vedant's introduction to the piano and Western classical music in general, came from family — when he was 10 years old. “My mother had been playing the piano for 20-odd years, and she was the one who introduced me to it,” he says. That was in Kolkata. After moving to Delhi, piano lessons continued under Gagan Anand for nine years, after which he started learning under McCarthy. After a break, while he was in college at University of Michigan, the piano lessons are back.
Pranav's interest, too, stemmed from home. “My sister Himani introduced me to the piano and taught me a couple of pieces. That's how I started playing,” he informs. After joining the Delhi School of Music, where he sister studied, and deciding a couple of year later that the system at the school wasn't working for him, he started private classes with McCarthy.
Popularity of individual pieces and a scope for improvisation were the benchmark for pieces to be played at the concert.
Vedant's line-up comprised two pieces from Schumann — ‘Of Foreign Lands and People' (Von Fremden Landern und Menschen), and ‘Dreaming' (Traumerei). Also, two waltzes of Chopin and three pieces by Mozart — the Rondo in D Major, Sonata No. 11 in A Major, and 12 Variations on ‘Ah! Vou dirai-je, maman'. The 12 variations on ‘Ah Vou Dirai-je, Maman' comprise Mozart's 12 versions of the popular French folk song, the tune of which runs through the alphabet song, ‘Baa, baa, black sheep' and ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star.'
Explaining his choice of compositions, Vedant says, “‘Ah! Vou dirai-je, maman' has been one of my most favourite pieces because it is relatively complex, has a very, very catchy melody and is a famous piece. People recognise it. I've played it for many years and I know the piece fairly well.”
Schumann's ‘Traumerei', too, was picked because of its recall value and the beauty of its melody. “The Rondo is, again, one of my favourite pieces. I have a recording by a very famous pianist that I would hear over and over again and I wanted to learn it. Once I learnt it, I thought it would be great to perform,” Vedant adds. While he's learnt three of Chopin's waltzes (of which he's planned to play two), the goal, he says, is to learn all of them (numbering 19, or a controversial 20). Vedant's favourite composers are expectedly Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven. “It's just that I've been more exposed to their music than, say, the music of Liszt or Brahms or Mendelsson. I'm also very fond of the music of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven I'm particularly fond of. The tunes and melodies I find very intriguing and at that time they were revolutionary and very unique. Each of them broke through the traditional forms of music and developed their own forms that went on to define specific periods in music history. That I find very fascinating,” he explains.
Chopin and Beethoven have emerged as Pranav's favourite composers. “I haven't had the opportunity to play that much Beethoven, but I've been playing a lot of Chopin of late,” he says.
Compositions that he had picked for the performance include two ‘Songs Without Words' by Mandelssohn (A Major and E major), an Intermezzo in E Major by Brahms and three Nocturnes and an Etude from Chopin.
“Music from the Romantic period appeals to me because it's something the pianist has to express from within. Playing these pieces involves a lot of your interpretation of the piece. For me, somehow, that's very appealing. In the Chopin pieces, for example, I find something very universal about the emotions they express, and they resonate with me. Nocturnes, generally, have a very high emotional content.”