TVG's tribute to MDR turned the clock back...

“One of the things which struck me forcefully during the concert was that, like M.D. Ramanathan, TVG now looks larger than life as his performance progresses. It would be definitely an understatement to say that his music is captivating, or that it is technically superb. It is positively overpowering! I am truly grateful to the Maestro for putting me on a Jumbo flight back to Carnatica.”

That’s what I had written about 30 years ago, summing up my impressions of an awesome vocal recital by T.V. Gopalakrishnan (accompanied by M.S. Gopalakrishnan and Umayalpuram Sivaraman), at the Vidwat Samajam in Mylapore, in 1981. It was the very first kutcheri I had attended in Madras after an interval of more than a couple of years, during which time I had been on a foreign assignment and had almost totally missed listening to live Carnatic music concerts. I had just returned home on a Boeing-747 flight, and had found the music equally fascinating!

I couldn’t help recalling that particular occasion and those specific observations as I sat spellbound at Hamsadhwani this past Sunday in the course of TVG’s vocal recital, which was dedicated to the memory of MDR on the eve of the latter’s birthday. As was appropriate for the occasion, the selection included several ragas and songs MDR used to fancy, as well as a couple of MDR’s own compositions.

Thus the concert took off and cruised with a distinct MDR accent, starting with the ‘Viriboni’ varnam (raga Bhairavi), and featuring the songs ‘Gajavadana’ (composed by MDR, in raga Hamsadhwani), ‘Tera Teeyaga’ Raada’ (Tyagaraja, Gowlipanthu), ‘Mangala Charane’ (MDR, Hindolam), ‘Emani Ne’ (Subbaraya Sastri, Mukhari), and ‘Nijadaasa Varada’ (Patnam Subramania Iyer, Kalyani). In all the above numbers the music had a striking resemblance to MDR’s -- in terms of the leisurely tempo, meditative style and baritone effects.

However, after the solo percussion session, which followed the Kalyani number, TVG quickly veered away from the MDR orbit, and flew into his own usual space, finishing the concert with a string of lively songs with a Hindustani flavour, rendered in his own unique style. These included MDR’s composition, ‘Sagara Sayana,’ (raga Bhageshri), which clearly bore the TVG stamp. The twin percussion accompaniment (with grandmaster Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and V. Suresh wielding the mridangam and the ghatam) was extremely sensitive, and was perfectly aligned to the MDR-TVG perspective. The trade-off between them in the tani avartanam was sharp, dynamic and delightful. Violinist T.K.V. Ramnanujacharyulu’s orthodox and sedate style fitted the occasion well.

It was truly gratifying to see that a very large number of rasikas had defied the summer heat and had turned up at the semi-open-air venue at Hamsadhwani to listen to this spellbinding performance. The audience included violin maestro Lalgudi Krishnan and vocalist Suryaprakash; and the graceful presence of Mrs. MDR was heart-warming.

An intriguing impression which emerged in my mind on this occasion was that TVG, who will be turning 80 shortly still looks and sounds as vigorous on the concert platform today as he did way back in 1981 when I had talked of that ‘larger-than-life’ image which he shared with MDR.

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