Veteran artist M. Chandrasekaran’s concert for Hamsadhwani was pleasing all the way.
The mid-20th-century generation of Carnatic violinists was dominated by an unchallenged and equally empowered Triumvirate — T.N. Krishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman and M.S. Gopalakrishnan. There were some younger violinists who achieved excellence and had almost reached the highest level in terms of ranking. And between these levels, there was M. Chandrasekaran, whose status vis-a-vis the top three was not unlike that of Swati Tirunal vis-a-vis the Trinity — Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.
Chandru (as he’s affectionately known in music circles) is still active as a performing artist and recently completed 60 years of appearance on the concert platform. The basic role of the violin in Carnatic music being supportive, the main preoccupation of violinists in classical times was to accompany vocalists (and, occasionally flute masters). The most gifted violinists were naturally privileged to accompany the vocal greats. In turn, vocalists began to consider it a privilege to be accompanied by these violinists. Some of them (including the Triumvirate) eventually acquired an additional image as soloists. But Chandrasekaran has been content to practise the art of the accompanist to perfection, always reflecting the light shed by the vocalists and thereby enabling them to shine even brighter.
However, there are exceptional occasions now and then when the master does give a solo recital. Since he can also sing rather well, during such events he likes to play the violin as he sings! The GNB Centenary concert at Hamsadhwani was such an occasion, and a compact audience of hard-core rasikas found the performance pleasing.
Rendered with verve
Chandru was accompanied on the violin by his daughter Bharati, who is also a Bharatanatyam dancer. Providing sharp salvos of percussion were twin mridangams played by K. Srivatsa (an earnest exponent of the Pazhani style) and his promising young disciple Seshadri Vyas.
Two songs composed by GNB — well chosen for this commemorative occasion — were rendered extremely well: ‘Saraswati Namosthute’ (Saraswati) and ‘Nee Paadamay Gati’ (Nalinakanti). But the highlight of the concert was the Dikshitar kriti ‘Sree Krishnam Bhaja Maanasa’ in Thodi, sung gracefully by the violin maestro line for line in a leisurely tempo.