Overcoming ennui by constantly unearthing yesteryear compositions is the hallmark of a Sanjay Subrahmanyam concert. His recital at the anniversary celebrations of Rajalakshmi Fine Arts, Coimbatore, began with the rare ata tala varnam in Mukhari followed by ‘Maruvakudaya Mohananga’ (Mohanam) with swaras. His alapanas of Kamalamanohari for the kriti, ‘Narasimhudu’ and Kanakangi for ‘Ullam Urugi’ were presented with full-throated ease especially in the higher octaves. Mapping the contours of Kalyani for ‘Mathim Dehi’ was a class act. His elaborate exercise in more than a dozen raga sancharas for the ragam-thanam-pallavi ‘Yarukkuthan Theriyum Avar Mahimai’ in Devamanohari was remarkable. Varadarajan (violin) reciprocated the ragas and the swaras to suit the expectations of the vocalist. The combination of Venkatesh (mridangam) and Radhakrishnan (ghatam) in the laya wing had several aesthetically appealing phrases with well-played out thani.
Acclaimed as an all-rounder among Carnatic musicians, Unnikrishnan, however, was not judicious in his choice of kritis. ‘Evaribodha’, the varnam in two speeds, his raga vinyasa of Mukhari for the kriti, ‘Endraikku Sivakripai’ and Khambodi, the main piece of the recital, had nothing unique in their presentation. The tukkadas towards the end were welcome. Sriramkumar (violin) showcased his artistry in the raga versions and swara repartees. Anantakrishnan (mridangam) and Krishnakumar (ghatam) played an energetic thani. The vocalist could have done better. In sum, the recital was a tame affair.
The Malladi Brothers cruised through, without falling prey to the temptation of a frenetic tempo. Impeccable application of gana-naya in tapering raga phrases and sahitya articulation was noticed from the beginning of their session. The Khambodi varnam ‘Tharuni Ninnu’ in two speeds created a divine ambience. Sridhar Kumar’s sancharas for sketching Anandabhairavi for Tyagaraja’s ‘Tyagarajayoga Vaibhavam’ and Ravikumar’s extensive delineation of Purvikalyani for ‘Ninnuvina’ with subtle variations gave an impression of immensity. The niraval and swaras for the latter were superb with apt laya patterns in the kalpanaswaras. The ragam-thanam-pallavi in Lalitha with raga sancharas had an aesthetic appeal. Violinist Sanjeev was adept in tackling alapanas and swara sallies. K.V. Prasad (mridangam) and Raja Ganesh (ganjira) handled the percussive segment with flair and assurance.
Sandeep Narayan displayed his musicality, even as he mimicked the mannerisms of his guru Sanjay Subrahmanyan. After a vibrant presentation of the Kaanada varnam ‘Neranammi’ in two speeds, a continuous stream of alapanas thereafter for every kriti became a bit laborious for the listener. Breath control like his teacher was the hallmark of his presentation. His elaborate raga vinyasam of Vishnupriya for the kriti ‘Balasubramanian Padame’, and the presentation of the sahityam evoked emotional ripples in the listeners. The raga alapana of Madhyamavati for the ragam-thanam-pallavi ‘Paalinchu Kamakshi’ with energetic phrasing in tara sthayi was the high mark of his kutcheri. Ananthakrishnan (violin) responded with fluid grace and picked up the gauntlet with alacrity in the solo versions of the raga and swara repartees. Percussive support by Arjun Ganesh (mridangam) and Sunil Kumar (ganjira) was of a high order.
The first unstructured concert of T.M. Krishna, a change from the Ariyakudi paddhathi, began with a leisurely exposition of the Khambodi kriti ‘Evarimata’ by Tyagaraja. Akkarai Subhalakshmi (violin), Arun Prakash (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (ganjira) were the accompanists. The rendition of the song with swaras was followed by a casual delineation of Atana for Thiruvottriyur Thyagaraja’s ‘Chidvilasa Nadhanadi’, and a composition of Ghanam Krishnaiyer followed by niraval by the ganjira artist. Following the Begada alapana by the violinist, Krishna began the tanam ‘Pradhanamaanadhu Manidhaneyam’ and gave free rein to Akkarai Subhalakshmi to play ragas of her choice, Purvikalyani, Saranga, Mukhari, Janaranjani and Dhanyasi. Then Arun Prakash followed it up with his vibrant thani. “It is not a regular kutcheri,” said Krishna, in the middle of it. A soulful version of the Kamakshi swarajati in Bhairavi lent some serenity. The ragamalika ‘Bhajagovindam’ with different raga phrasings was sublime. At the end, rasikas could see that TMK’s format could evoke the same majesty as a regular format.
Ramakrishnan Murthy ’s opening Thiruppugazh verse and ‘Kripajuchutaku’ (Chayatarangini) with swaras were ample proof of his vidwat. ‘Sree Viswanatham Bhajeham’ in Chathurdasa Ragamalika by Muthuswami Dikshitar bore testimony to his class. His brilliant elaboration of Saveri for the kriti brought out the rakti and conferred enriching articulation on them. The ragam-thanam-pallavi in Kapi was majestic revealing many shades of the raga and his manodharma. Raghavendra Rao (violin), Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Karthick (ghatam) played interesting rhythmic patterns.
Bombay Jayashri ’s thematic kutcheri on Goddess Saraswathi was an exceptional session. Her voice blended seamlessly with G.N. Balasubramaniam’s varnam in Hindolam ‘Sakalakala Vani’. Her raga vinyasas of Mukhari (‘Palismmamuddu’ ) and Sankarabharanam (‘Devi Jagajanani’) gave an edge to the ragas. Bhaskar’s breezy raga versions and the controlled percussive support of Satish Kumar (mridangam) and Karthick (ghatam) provided quality patterns. The embellished beats of the duo added to the dignity of the recital.
Deft handling of Lathangi for ‘Pirava Varam Thaarum’ and Manirangu for ‘Maamava Pattabhirama’ demonstrated Sowmya ’s simple and impressive style in raga mapping on the last day of the festival. Her bani, inherited from her guru, made a profound impact on the listeners. Her presentation of the musical fare was free of frills. Embar Kannan (violin) matched every segment with self-effacing efficiency on the violin. The improvised play of Narayanan (mridangam) and Chandrasekhara Sarma (ghatam) heightened the charm of the recital.
Besides stalwarts, up-and-coming artists such as Vikram Raghavan (vocal) and Jayanth (flute) distinguished themselves in the afternoon session with suitable accompaniments in the junior slot.
Senior vidwan Palladam Venkataramana Rao and his team ended the fest with a brilliant harmonium recital on the last day.