When he sings a Thyagaraja kriti in his majestic voice and clear diction, listeners get to experience the true spirit of the composition. Veteran musician Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, who has the credit of popularising several of the saint-composer's pieces through such renditions, was honoured with the ‘Thyagaraja Seva Rathnam' award at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha here on Saturday.

The honour coincides with Nedunuri's 85th birthday celebrations.

The award was instituted by P. Vijaykumar Reddy and Preetha Reddy to commemorate industrialist and arts patron P. Obul Reddy's birthday that fell on December 1. It comes with a purse of Rs.1 lakh.

Speakers highlighted Mr. Nedunuri Krishnamurthy's contributions as an inspiring artist, tunesmith and guru.

Senior musician Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, who has collaborated with Nedunuri as an accompanist for decades, in his message read out by his son Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan said: “Sri. Nedunuri's voice has a rich tone that is very suitable for the Carnatic idiom. His renditions are marked by classicism and bhava (emotional appeal). As a performer, he never compromises on classical values.”

In tuning and popularising several compositions of Annamacharya and Bhadrachala Ramdass, Nedunuri has enriched the field of Carnatic music, he said. “Though he is from Andhra Pradesh, he would make special efforts to learn Tamil compositions for listeners here. That has won him a special place in the hearts of rasikas here.”

The two musicians have shared a rather deep bond for over five decades. “We would exchange letters quite often and address each other as ‘my dear brother,'” Mr. Jayaraman said. Responding, Mr. Nedunuri Krishnamurthy said that the times when Mr. Jayaraman played in his concerts was “a golden period” in his career. “His playing would inspire me on stage…we have toured together extensively. We would often discuss several aspects of music.”

He also said that it was rather special that he was being honoured at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, which was among the first sabhas in Chennai to recognise the artist from Andhra Pradesh.

Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, president of the Sabha said the awardee was an expert in the theory as well as practice of music. Cleveland Sundaram, vice-president, pointed to the creativity of Nedunuri. S. Vijayakumar, CMD, Vijay Nirman Company, Visakhapatnam and the Sabha's secretary Y. Prabhu were among those who spoke.