REVIEW A well-conceived sitar-cello jugalbandi and dazzling vocal recital ushered in spring in the Capital. Kuldeep Kumar

While it is true that Hindustani classical music attaches special significance to its relationship with nature and assigns a particular time in the day or night for the performance of a particular raga, it is also true that varsha (rains) and vasant (spring) are the only two seasons that it has chosen to celebrate with great elan. Perhaps, the reason behind this is that rains and spring bring comfort to the people of North India, where summer and winter are particularly severe. These days, Delhi is celebrating the onset of spring, and Pallavi Odissi Nritya Sangeet Vidyalaya organised a two-day programme in this connection. The first day’s fare included a sitar-cello jugalbandi between Shubhendra Rao and his Dutch wife Saskia Rao-Haas and a vocal recital by Gwalior gharana maestro L.K. Pandit.

Both Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-Haas belong to the Maihar tradition. While Shubhendra was groomed by none other than Pandit Ravi Shankar, Saskia was trained by flautist Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia. They chose to open their recital with raga Adi Basant, a hoary form of Basant that makes use of both the rishabhs and both the madhyams one after the other. Shubhendra, followed by Saskia, played a systematic, reposeful Maihar-style alap followed by an equally disciplined jod-jhala sequence during which Saskia played certain delicate phrases on the cello, an instrument that sounds like a deep, sonorous human voice. However, the difference in the scales of the two instruments was quite big. Therefore, when both the sitar and cello were played in unison, the effect was uneven. The performance was well-conceived and there were hardly any moments of sudden discovery. The duo played a gat in the Carnatic raga Charukeshi and regaled the audience with their deft layakari. Shailendra Mishra provided appropriate tabla accompaniment.

L.K. Pandit, son and disciple of the legendary Krishnarao Shankar Pandit, represents the Gwalior gharana gayaki as understood and practised by his illustrious forefathers. He chose Basant to open his recital and sang a bada khayal “Nabi Ke Darbar” in Tilwada tala, followed by a drut khayal “Piya Sang Khelo Ri”. It was not one of his best performances, and the bada khayal sounded a little sluggish. He was much better in the drut version and by the time he came to sing Bahar, he had sufficiently warmed up. He rendered a composition of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Awadh who wrote under the non de plume of Akhtar Piya, and once again proved that he is one of our top-notch vocalists today. He was now in full flow and dazzled the audience with his sprightly aakaar taans, stylised rendering of the bol-taans and unexpected ways of arriving at the sam. L.K. Pandit concluded his recital with a famous Sanskrit ashtpadi of Jayadev, “Lalit Lavang Lata Parisheelan”, in raga Kedar and sang it like a proper khayal. It was a befitting finale to a virtuoso performance. He was ably accompanied by Akhtar Hasan on tabla and Bharat Bhushan Goswami on sarangi.