Intelligent explorations made the afternoon concerts interesting.

The focus of Vilasini's recital was on the kritis of Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar — `Yevarani Nirnayinchedira,' `Upacharamulanu' and `Kasivisalakshim Bhajeham.' The niraval in the Purvikalyani piece of Dikshitar and the kalpanaswaras in the Bhairavi kirtana were modest attempts at showcasing her individuality. Actually, she sang with more ease Ambujam Krishna's `Ennaikaividalaguma,' in Varamu and `Ram Japan Kyoon Chchod Diya,' penned by the Hindi poet Kalas, set in Desh.It was probably not surprising that Parur M.S.Ananthakrishnan, who was on the violin, outshone the vocalist. Kumbakonam Swaminathan, the lone percussionist, played a useful part on the mridangam.

Absorbing recital

Hemmige S.Prashanth, Bangalore-based vocalist, might not have caused ripples among the audience, which was unusually small even for an afternoon concert. But the resonance and composure of the vocalist wouldn't have left them untouched. Surely the Anandabhairavi raga kriti, `Marivere Gatiyevvaramma,' with its slow movements, was featured a few times in the afternoon series. Yet, Prashanth did cause you to feel, at least for a moment, as if it was his own. In the exposition of raga Nagasvaravali, the pentatonic scale, Prashanth delighted the listeners by depicting the contrast between octaves. Following this exercise, he sang a faster Tyagaraja kriti `Sripate Neepada Chintane Jeevanamu.' The alapana in Kharaharapriya was more elaborate, but Prashanth more or less followed the approach he had adopted in the previous composition. Papanasam Sivan's `Srinivasa Tavacharanam' was a welcome change from the kritis in this melodic scale that one hears more commonly. Swati Tirunal's `Saramaina Matalanta Chaluchalura,' in raga Behag and a `Tiruppugazh' in raga Sindubhairavi concluded this absorbing recital. Arunachala Karthick on the violin was impressive and S.Anand on the mridangam played an interesting solo.

Good grasp of lyrics

S.R.Maruti Prasad demonstrated his considerable vocal range and good grasp of lyrics in a recital which contained ample variety in terms of compositions. He could build on some of these obvious strengths by devoting more attention to enrich the melodic aspect of his singing, which at times seems to betray some kind of affectation.Mysore Vasudevachar's `Srisaraswateem Bhagavateem, (Ataana), was an emphatic opening statement from the vocalist. He further reinforced your reading of his calibre in Tyagaraja's Panthuvarali kriti, `Appa Ramabhakti Yento Goppara.' A vibrant alapana, an eloquent niraval on `Kapivaridi Datuna,' and an enjoyable improvisation thereafter, were equally noteworthy features. `Teppa Tamarakumeeda Tenaduvadu,' of Annamacharya in Lalita which Maruti Prasad sang in the interlude and `Chandrachooda Sivasankara Parvati,' Purandaradasa's ragamalika kriti completed the proceedings.Prasad's accompanist on the violin, R. Satish Kumar, was quite competent and so was the percussionist, Trivandrum N. Hariharan who played the mridangam.

Enjoyable and melodic

B.Shivakumar's veena sounded like the veena always did, a reflection on the excellent quality of acoustics at the Music Academy and also the precise positioning of the body mike in the instrument. Incidentally, the recital was the lone performance of its kind and the second instrumental in the afternoon sessions.Shivakumar too, just as many of his predecessor artistes, found himself playing the varnam in raga Kedaragowla, whereas even a remote knowledge of the extent of repetition of the Tiruvatriyur Tyagayyar composition would have prompted all of them to come up with an alternative. Shivakumar's next kriti was Thanjavur Sankara Iyer's `Natajana Paripalini,' in raga Nalinakanti which seems to be a favourite with both the young artiste and his guru Chitraveena N.Ravikiran. Muthaiah Bhagavatar's `Sarasamukhi,' in raga Gaudmalhar was a nice change over piece before the first major composition in the concert set in raga Varali.In a lengthy alapana, Shivakumar gave free reign to his imagination while his virtuosity and technique ensured a balanced exposition. Dikshitar's `Seshachalanayakam,' and the niraval at `Aravinda Padmanayanam,' and the improvisation were enjoyable.

Superb support

The second highlight of the afternoon was raga Khambodi and Tyagaraja's `O Rangasayee,' which was also ornate with more melodic improvisation. The recital concluded with a tillana of Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman in raga Madhuvanti. Nirmal Narayanan on the mridangam and N.H.P.Rajarajan on the ghatam provided superb accompaniment.Chinmaya Sisters, Uma and Radhika, poured out music in a gush. It diminished the natural melody from their voices. The reason may have to do with the Ragam Tanam Pallavi that they were hard-pressed for time to accommodate after singing six compositions earlier in a two-hour recital.Speed was notable right through the expositions of ragas Sankarabharanam and Subhapantuvarali, where the absence of the slow tempo (vilambita kala) was conspicuous. The sisters sang `Sarojadalanetri' and `Yennallu Oorake' with great poise but that merely reinforced the initial question.The lone exception to this overall drift was Muthiah Bhagavatar's `Vanchatonu Na Vagalu Telpave' in Karnaranjani. But you were not likely to have been happy with this either if you happen to be familiar with the rendition of the kriti in a faster tempo (and with good reason). One felt the song of Veena Kuppaiyer in Kuntalavarali, `Kanna Tandri Nannu Brochutaku' just came and went. The siblings then presented ragam and tanam in Madhyamavati. The pallavi, `Sugunavati, Gunavati Yuvati, Madhyamavati,' and the thani avartanam that followed were all consigned in a matter of 32 minutes. The impact was always going to be more pronounced where two vocalists had to share limited time. Melakkaveri Tyagarajan on the violin was consistently good in the solo essays as well as in the compositions. Nellai K. Balaji, who played the mridangam, had the able support of D.V.Venkatasubramanian with the ghatam.