By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Saturday, June 25, 2016

When Music-lovers In India Were Teleported To Mozartland

As if to make handsome amends for the ordeal which the far-too-modern Austrian Art Ensemble had inflicted on us in September 1991 (see Two Sad Stories Of Twin Steinways ), the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi invited a fine set of chamber musicians from Salzburg to give us a fascinating glimpse of Mozart's music in the last month of the Bicentenary Year.  And I was glad to offer them all  garlands of fragrant Indian flowers :-

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New Delhi

6 December 1991

Rewarding encounter

As the Bicentenary Year of Mozart's passing away draws to a close, the music-lovers in New Delhi . . .  had a rewarding encounter with the Salzburg Mozart Soloists, thanks to the initiative taken by the Indian Council of Cultural relations and the Austrian Embassy.
Salzburg, of course, was the place where Mozart was born (1756) and grew up as a prodigious pianist and composer.  This group, it is said, has been privileged to perform in the very baroque state rooms which used to be frequented by Mozart.  One couldn't ask for better credentials.

The spacious Kamani Hall was full, testifying to the gradually increasing public response to Western classical music n New Delhi. The cognoscenti in the audience sat in grim and frowning silence when many of us clapped after every movement.  But let us face the facts :  we Indians do have our own way of showing our appreciation or encouraging the musicians;  and let it be so, as long as we do not bring our casual concert manners to the Western front!  It is something like the admirable way the Delhi Music Society always offers even visiting artists from abroad lovely garlands instead of lifeless bouquets wrapped in cellophane sheets. 

This chamber music group consists of eight musicians.  There was nothing exciting about the way the concert began :  four of them played Mozart's Quartet in E-Flat major (Kv. 493), featuring the piano, violin, cello and  viola.  This is not one of Mozart's outstanding works by any chance.  It is even thought to be a routine stereotyped piece, and is not very popular in Europe.  But it is perfectly polished and symmetrical, and was rendered competently.  It did set up the atmosphere, anyhow, creating a mood of high expectations.

What followed, however, was not the answer to our prayers.  It was a short work by Erich Urbanner :  String Quartet No. 2 (two violins, viola, cello).  No one has heard (or heard of) Urbanner in this city before this :  the best that could be said about the piece was that it was urbane (pun intended!).  During the intermission, we were all still waiting for the Salzburgers to offer some vibrant, full-blooded music of Mozart's.

They did precisely that in the second half of the concert, which was entirely devoted to a single lengthy work by the master :  the Divertimento in D-Major (Kv. 334).  All the musicians of the group except the pianist took part :  Gabor Vadasz and Martin Herb (violins), Josef Schneider (cello), Werner Christof (viola), Wilhelm Schwaiger and Dieter Binniker (horns), and Rudolf Harlander (double bass).  And the way it was performed, this number turned out to be something worth waiting for -- not just for an hour in the concert hall, but all through the Bicentenary Year in this remote city.

Silk and velvet 

Although Mozart's Divertimenti (23 in all) are not generally considered to figure among his most important works, this one (Kv. 334) is something special.  It is the very last of them in chronological order, and has certain features which were forward-looking in Mozart's times -- such as the striking harmony between the horns and the strings.

What we heard on this occasion was music of exceptional beauty and clarity.  The violins and viola had a silky texture, the frequently-plucked cello and double bass produced a throbbing pulse ;  and the occasionally intervening horns dripped with honey.  They all blended beautifully to create a velvet-like tone -- exactly what we expect to find in the legendary composer's chamber music.  Truly, for a while the audience was teleported to Mozartland, from where came the musicians.

A bouquet -- sorry, garland! -- to the pianist, whose high caliber too was never in doubt.  Her name is as long as the Divertimento we heard --  Maria Michaela Cuvay Schneider.  What was really missing in the concert was perhaps a Piano Sonata by Mozart -- which would have given her also a chance to shine brightly, and added still greater value to our marvelous musical experience.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Superb Piano Recitals By The Ambassador And The Emperor

In September 1991 -- five years after I had started appealing to the organizers of Western classical music in New Delhi to guide all visiting classical musicians from the West effectively so that we could have substantial sessions of the kind of their own music we really cared for -- I found myself still grumbling about the all-too-short duration of concerts, or about wrong kinds of music from our point of view (as I mentioned in the preceding blogs).   

However, by now I was beginning to realize that it wasn't all the fault of the local organizers, who were often finding it difficult to change the normally rigid and blinkered attitudes of the visiting Western musicians.  And side by side with the unsatisfactory events,  we were also having some very rewarding encounters with foreign musicians now and then ;  and I was always glad to write rave reviews on those occasions, as in the following contexts :-

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New Delhi
15 September 1991

It will stay in memory for a long time!

What are the essential qualifications of a beauty queen?  The best of looks, yes, they are the most important thing.  But certain other points also count, such as a good education, some significant artistic, professional or other accomplishment and an ability to communicate well with people. 

Conversely, what are the basic qualifications of an Artistic Ambassador of a country crossing cultural borders on a global tour?  High accomplishment in his or her chosen art is the most important thing, of course.  But there are also certain other things which count, such as good looks, fine personality, and the ability to speak clearly and well to foreigners in unfamiliar lands.

Judged by these criteria, one must say that Sara Laimon, pianist and Artistic Ambassador of the U.S. to the world this year, is eminently qualified for the assignment.  Not only is she an accomplished pianist, but she looks beautiful :  the very picture of young and healthy America, as we are fond of visualizing it.  Robed in a flowing red gown, she almost looked like the Statue of Liberty.   And Ms. Laimon has a pleasant way of introducing the works she performs, restricting herself to the essentials, well articulated.  If she had been introduced as the reigning Miss America this year, we could well have believed it.

Oh yes, the credentials of the Ambassador were gladly accepted at face value by the select gathering which had assembled to hear her piano recital at the India International Center the other evening, even before she had started striking the keyboard.

Graceful and dynamic

And she did not disappoint us with her performance :  far from it!  Playing entirely from memory, she brought to her efforts an intense concentration which was infectious.  She handled the Steinway Grand with confidence, producing graceful nuances and generating dynamic power with equal felicity.

Contrary to the usual practice of visiting Western musicians, who tend to measure out their music in ounce-glasses like a bitter medicine, Sara Laimon was generous with her offerings.  The concert lasted nearly two hours, with a mercifully short intermission.  She played three sonatas, by Mozart, Berg and Copland, three short pieces by Debussy, and an extract from a Bach sonata for unaccompanied violin transcribed for the piano by Busoni (Chaconne in D Major).

Ms. Laimon introduced the last number with her own mental reservation, saying that perhaps Bach might not like its being played on the piano.  But she need not have worried.  This was the most beautiful work she performed that evening, and it will stay in our memory for a long time.  I am sure Bach would have been very pleased, the way she interpreted his composition on the piano!

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Chakravarti  --  Emperor (Sanskrit).  In Carnatic (South Indian classical) music circles, leading cultural institutions are fond of conferring titles like Violin ChakravartiMridangam Chakravarti, etc., on  very distinguished musicians, particularly instrumentalists.  (Mridangam is a sophisticated double-sided drum, the prime percussion instrument in Carnatic music).  So it just occurred to me,  why not Piano Chakravarti?

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New Delhi
8 November 1991

A splendid performance

Commander of the Royal Order of Nordstjarn (Sweden) . . .  Knight of the Royal Order Of St. Olav (Norway) . . .  Knight of the Order of Danbrog (Denmark) . . .  Grand Master of the Order of Lejon (Finland)  --  these titles represent the recognition accorded by four Scandinavian countries to the cultural achievement of a gifted son of the soil, pianist Kjell (pronounced Kyell) Baekkelund of Norway (b. 1930).

After hearing his recent performance in New Delhi, I am inclined to confer on Mr. Baekkelund the title of Piano Chakravarti ('Emperor of the Realm of Piano').  I am sure none of the 200 music-lovers who heard the recital would dispute the decision -- for the entire audience seemed reluctant to get up and go home after the artist had concluded the program ;  and the warm response induced him to offer not less than three encores.

We were informed that Baekkelund's interests are not limited to music.  Apart from playing the piano, he has also been a newspaper columnist in his country, writing on various topics.  As a performing artist, he has a wide-ranging repertoire which covers classical as well as modern composers (including several Scandinavians), in respect of compositions for the piano and orchestra, as well as works meant solely for the piano.

Whether by sheer chance, or he had been properly advised by the local organizers, or perhaps he had his own intuition of the right kind, the artist did not load his program heavily with modern works  (as he could have done), but offered a conservative selection.  This consisted of a chaconne by Handel, a sonata by Mozart, three lyrical pieces by Grieg, a waltz and a ballad by Chopin, and a suite by Bartók.  It was a menu well suited to the tastes of the average lover of Western music in Delhi.

Intriguing and beautiful

And Baekkelund's performance was splendid.  Powerful cascades of sound alternated with gentle streams, and vigorous waves of sound blended with delicate ripples, to produce harmony of infinite beauty.  Listening to the recital, one felt like being lashed by a torrential rainfall of sound, and yet was somehow rowing over a peaceful lake, admiring a rainbow on a clear sky.  

This kind of music transcends technical excellence, and reaches out to the listener's heart.  No wonder the audience clamored for more!  And the encores were rendered equally well (a couple  of short pieces by Debussy and the Norwegian composer Sinding, and a jazzy improvisation by the pianist).   

With  this concert the artist was concluding a short Indian tour (Bombay-Bangalore-Goa-Delhi) on his way to Bangkok.  How I wish he would break his return journey also in New Delhi and perform once again here!  Let us at least hope that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations , which organized this event, will bring the Emperor back to India sooner or later!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Talking Of Music And Strong Medicines...

Within a week after taking a 12.5-milligram capsule of piano powder -- please see preceding blog (or better, recall all 10 posts of June) -- I swallowed half an ounce of  flute-piano mixture.  That was 25 years ago, but the whole setting still remains fresh in my memory.  And here's the story :-

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New Delhi
11 October 1991

Wholesome music

When Arif Gulsen Tatu of Turkey began her flute recital, accompanied by Barbara Peterson Cackler of the U.S. on the piano at the India International Center the other evening, there was a problem.  The air-conditioner in the auditorium was over-effective, and the air was unusually and uncomfortably chilly.  

Soon after starting the recital with a piece titled Ekrem Zeki Un ('At the tomb of Yunus'), Ms. Tatu stopped in her track and simply stood still.  She said nothing, but the sensitive audience in the full house understood, and did not make even a rustling noise.  The silent spell lasted several minutes, as the flustered musician seemed to be summoning all her reserves of composure to be able to resume the concert and carry on. 

It could have been a collective prayer at the Tomb of Yunus, and it was answered by some benevolent Power.  For after resuming the initial number from where she had left it, Ms. Tatu never looked back.  There was not another jarring note in the evening's music, which featured some short works by Bach (Sonata No. 6), Schubert (Ich Blumlein Alle), Gaubert (Nocturno and Allegro Scherzando)  and Dopple (Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise). 

Wholesome music, well rendered by both artists :  it was just the kind of Western classical music we can understand and appreciate in this part of the world.  

Music or medicine?

But in keeping with the usual pattern of concerts given by visiting musicians from the West, it was all over far too quickly for the liking of the local audience.  At the risk of repeating a thought ad nauseum and sounding quite tedious, I must once again remind our organizers that it is their responsibility to advise guest artists from abroad that a concert lasting less than a couple of hours has no chance of making a substantial impact on the normal audience in New Delhi.

The Turkish Embassy, Delhi Music Society and India International Center deserve a vote of thanks for organizing this excellent event.  But they must note this point carefully, as should other institutions which are active in this field -- like Max Müller Bhavan, Italian, Bulgarian and Soviet Cultural Centers, US Information Service, British Council, Austrian Embassy, etc. :-

How can foreign artists know what the Western-music-lovers in this city actually look for in their performance, unless they are alerted suitably in advance by the local hosts?  What a tremendous waste of human resources it is for such fine musicians to travel such long distances (sometimes even half-way across the world), only to dole out a little bit of their superior music like a small dose of strong medicine to such enthusiastic music-lovers! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Two Sad Stories Of Twin Steinways

Continuing my recollections of  the insensitive and inflexible attitudes of most classical musicians from the West visiting New Delhi during the last three decades of the 20th century -- as a rule doling out some of their most beautiful music to us in ridiculously small doses, or inflicting some of their most bizarre music on us now and then, without the slightest concern for our preferences and expectations -- let me show you my reviews of a couple of piano recitals I had attended in quick succession, which said it all :- 

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fin de siecle  --  end of century (French).
Max Müller Bhavan   --  German language and cultural center. 
avant-garde  --  new and experimental, especially in the arts (French).

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New Delhi
12 September 1991

Strutting with two Steinways

For several months during the long, excruciating summer which seems to have just ended, foreign musicians did not show much inclination to visit India and New Delhi.  Whatever may be the reason, this year's summer crop of Western classical music concerts in the Capital has been the worst in recent memory. 

We therefore awaited the arrival of the Austrian Art Ensemble's piano-and-percussion quartet with extraordinary interest.  In any other circumstances, this type of visiting group would have attracted only a small gathering of serious Western-music-lovers at the India International Center.  But when it performed here last week, there was a nearly full house in the spacious Kamani auditorium.

The Austrian Art Ensemble is not constituted by a constant set of artists.  It performs music in theatrical as well as concert forms, specializing in the works of 20th-century composers, and draws musicians, dancers and actors from different sources as specifically required for any given program. 

Currently, this quartet formed by the AAE is on an Asian tour.  It consists of two pianists -- Wim Van Zutphen (who is also the AAE's founder and leader) and Christiane Austleitner -- and two percussionists :  Morkku Kronn and Horst Gunther Shenck.  Their repertoire is said to include works by composers like Bartók, Cage, Gershwin, Milhaud, Satie, Schönberg and Stravinsky.


Unlike most visiting Western musicians, these artists were generous with their time.  The concert lasted about two hours, including a 20-minute intermission -- rather an endurance record by European standards, as we perceive them here!

The first 20 minutes went off quite smoothly, because as a special gesture in the memory of Mozart -- whose bicentenary the whole world is observing this year -- the ensemble launched the concert with his Sonata in D Major for two pianos (Kv. 448).  Quite a pleasant, if plain, effort.

After that the young percussionists joined the pianists, and the proceedings suddenly acquired an abstract character, which became more and more bizarre as the concert progressed.  To start with, there was a composition called Three movements dedicated to Henne, by a young contemporary Austrian composer, Wolfgang Muthspiel (b. 1965).  As the pianos and the drums played hide-and-seek to find one another's company, we knew that we were having a strong foretaste of things to come after the intermission. 

The world owes a great debt to Béla Bartók (1881-1945) for his pioneering research and recording of Hungarian folk music ;  but as a composer he is not very well known in this part of the world.  He belonged to a class of composers who had introduced unconventional approaches in Western orchestral music before the First World War, rejecting the symphonic form with contempt and experimenting with strange manipulations of sound.  His was not 'atonal' music like Schönberg's, but it had its share of twisted harmonies which still appear strange to many people even in the West in this fin de siecle.

In his Sonata for two pianos and percussion, played by the AAE Quartet, the instruments continued to play hide-and-seek, sounding hesitant and tentative in their expressions.  As a result, the sound of the two Steinway grand pianos (lent, as the program sheet graciously acknowledged, by the Max Müller Bhavan) was rather anemic, and the drums never found even a small fraction of their potential power.

Enter the buffoon

But if the dish served at this stage was difficult to consume, it became quite inedible in the last course, which was Erik Satie's Parade for two pianos and percussion.  For apart from the strutting of the Steinways and the accompanying instruments, we had some comic effects too in this work :  the percussionists' blowing a whistle now and then, or tapping on the keyboard of a manual typewriter -- and once even clapping a cymbal on the surface of some water contained in a plastic basin (with a cellophane sheet spread on the floor, to be sure, to take care of the splashing water!).

Erik Satie (1865-1925) was an important inter-war composer in Europe, and one of the modern trend-setters.  But he has also been described as an eccentric Parisian, fond of indulging in practical jokes and deliberate buffoonery.  Listening to his PPP, one could not very well disagree!

There were many Westerners in the large gathering, and I suppose all this clowning must have meant something to some of them.  But most of the listeners seemed quite bewildered.  However, it looked rather fashionable to applaud this avant-garde music, and we were not inhospitable. 

And our generosity attracted its own reward :  for what followed was an encore (a piece specially composed for the Ensemble) which went a step further.  In this number a couple of cassette machines were added to the instruments -- some assorted noises being played now and then -- with the pianos and percussion sounding discordant notes, and all the male members of the group singing disjointedly in German.

We must sincerely thank the Austrian Embassy for taking the initiative occasionally and bringing some very fine Western music programs to this country now and then.  But we must also address some important questions to them :  (1)  What is the point of presenting this kind of music to us here in India?  Are we capable of understanding it, leave alone appreciating it?   (2) Can we hope to hear some substantial and authentic music of Mozart in the cool months to come during this sentimental year of his bicentenary?

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 New Delhi

4 October 1991

Steinway sounds like Steinway!

September started rather well for Western classical music in the Capital, after the barren summer semester.  Although the piano-percussion quartet from Austria had severely tested our nerves with its abstract 'modern' music (as reported earlier), it was quickly followed by a delightful piano recital given by a visitor from Italy, presented by the Italian Cultural Center, Delhi Music Society and the India International Center.

Alessandra Ramacci is a piano teacher in an Italian music conservatoire, and is an accomplished artist.  Her track record has not yet grown sufficiently to match her extraordinarily vivacious style.  She has obviously far to go, but she will surely go far.

It is a good thing that organizers of Western music in the Capital try hard to teach the audience proper concert manners :  among other things, by never allowing anyone to enter or leave the concert hall except during the intermission, or -- mercifully! -- between two numbers.  But it is a mistake on their part not to advise visiting foreign artists to start a recital with a couple of short pieces, to accommodate latecomers.  None of us arrives late deliberately ;  but if it happens occasionally, we don't mind standing outside for a while with a grin, waiting to be let in.  But if we have to wait all the way up to the intermission because the entire first half of the concert is consumed by a single number, then it is quite taxing -- and, if the music is good, very frustrating.

That was precisely what happened this time.  I had turned up at the IIC just a few minutes late, but had to remain outside with 20 others for more than 20 minutes, while the pianist was playing nothing less important than Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata.  That was unfair all round :  nobody should have arrived late, to be sure, but none deserved such severe punishment for the crime either.  How heartless the penalty was became apparent as soon as the recital was resumed after the intermission with Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso (Op. 14)  --  for Ms. Ramacci's performance was simply brilliant, spontaneous, technically immaculate, and sparkling.  

When I said the entire first half had been taken up by the Appassionata, it would have been evident how short this concert was.  It was soon rounded off by Schumann's Carnaval (Op. 9), performed equally well.  The young pianist could certainly make a Steinway sound like a Steinway!  Still, one went home rather frustrated, not having been able to hear much more of the marvelous music. Not an unusual experience, of course!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When The Program Was More Important Than The Performance

In several preceding blogs I had recalled some of my reviews of 25/30  years ago, showing how grossly insensitive visiting musicians from the West normally were to the fact that some of us in New Delhi were desperately anxious to hear substantial quantities of Western classical music on the few precious occasions when it could be organized there. 

Actually this attitude seemed to be an extension of the extremely rigid rules and procedures governing the performance of classical music in the West.  Like the printed score of the music, the printed program also seemed to be a sacred document, which could never be modified or enlarged in any circumstances -- not even in an unfamiliar setting in a foreign country far away from home, as on the following occasion. . .

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New Delhi

29 March 1991

The encore was the best!

Albeniz, Giuliani, Tedesco . . .  all big names of composers of music for the classical guitar -- an exciting menu indeed!  But I was left standing with a few others outside the India International Center auditorium for some time while those inside were tasting the second course (three minuettes by Paganini), having finished the first (Sor: theme and variations).  We had arrived almost half an hour late for Griselda Ponce de Leon's guitar recital the other evening.

It is good to have these strict rules of entry and exit at least in the Western music events which take place in this country.  Of course, those who come late deserve to be punished.  But on this occasion even the punctual ones seemed to be paying a penalty, as I found out on entering the hall just before the third number (a sonata by Giuliani).  Somehow the guitar did not have a sonorous quality at all.

The performer explained after the event that there was a certain unusual dryness in the air inside the auditorium which had adversely affected the sound of the instrument.  Fair enough :  but whatever the reason, the performance did not seem to be coming off with a sparkle. There was an obvious fatigue in the strings which led to their yielding only a weak, anemic sound.  As a result, the music was listless.  And although the hall was nearly full before the intermission, many of the music-lovers had disappeared when the audience assembled again. 

The loss was entirely theirs, for the second half of the concert was excellent, with the guitar sounding much better.  Works by Albeniz, Barrios and Castelnuovo-Tedesco were rendered with a delicate touch, offering us many enchanting strains of music. 

Short-lived magic

But it was in the single encore played by Griselda that the guitar really came alive, with a flowery sound in full bloom.  It was a beautiful composition called Preludo No. 1 by Villa-Lobos, sensitively rendered.  That was when I wished that the performance would continue for another hour at least.  But unfortunately and quite predictably, the musician thought it was time to call it an evening, and the magic ended as suddenly as it had started.

I do think visiting musicians from the West must learn to get out of the straitjacket of their predetermined programs at least when they are performing in India.  I have this to say to all of them, and I hope our organizers will convey my message to them before they start their concerts :  Ladies and gentlemen, please go on playing when you are in excellent form, and never mind what your printed program says!

And to Ms. Griselda in particular, I have a special message :  Ending the music just when you had it glowing at last, Madame, was not the best thing to do, when you had come all the way from Rome to play the guitar for us here in New Delhi!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Germans Could Have Been More Generous!

The spring and early summer of Mozart's bicentenary year (1991) saw me still appealing to the local organizers of Western classical music in New Delhi to persuade visiting foreign musicians from the West to be far more generous with their offerings than they were normally inclined to be :-

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T.V. Sankaranarayanan  (alias TVS)   --  One of the seniormost  vocalists in Carnatic music (classical music of South India). If you aren't a South Indian, you can't pronounce his name properly.  Try splitting it up into Sankara Narayanan : if you still can't make it, just stick to TVS, as even most South Indians do!

M.S. Subbulakshmi   (alias MS)   --  During several decades of the 20th century, she was the undisputed prima donna of Carnatic music.
Max ller Bhavan   --  German language and cultural center (see annotation under Brick  &  Bouquet, June 10. 2016). 

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New Delhi
8 March 1991

All about things beautiful

T.V. Sankaranarayanan is one of the very few leading Carnatic musicians who still keep coming to New Delhi now and then to give substantial performances here without fussing about fees or facilities.  But unfortunately for me, whenever he turns up I seem to have some problem or other.  There was an occasion a few years ago when his performance clashed with M.S. Subbulakshmi's:  I attended the first hour of her concert and then rushed to hear the second half of his recital.

And last week, although he was performing on two successive evenings in the city (both of which I would have liked to attend), I found myself facing a dilemma.  I just could not afford t miss two concerts given on those very evenings by certain visiting German musicians.  It was a difficult choice, and the Germans won because I thought TVS was always going to be with us and there would be many occasions in the future to recoup the loss.

This situation underlined the fairly wide range of experience which is available to a music-lover in Delhi if his or her interest is not confined to Indian music.

We owe much of our experience of Western music here to the consistent initiative taken by the Delhi Music Society, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Max Müller Bhavan, and the Bulgarian and Italian Cultural Centers.  Theirs have been the most sustained efforts during the past several years.  Of late the Austrian Embassy has been coming in with an occasional contribution, as the British Council, United States Information Service and the Delhi Symphony Orchestra have always been doing.

Lovely songs

In the first concert I mentioned, held in the small IIC auditorium which was just about full, mezzo-soprano Ute Jahr rendered three short sets of German songs (Lieder) composed by Schubert, Brahms and Bretan.  She was accompanied by Barbara Cackler on the piano.  

Though Ms. Jahr now lives in the U.S., she had studied music in Germany and Austria, and her interpretation of the Lieder sounded authentic and convincing.  She also rendered a few English songs by Gershwin and others.  Ms. Cackler, who hails from America, played some selected pieces for the piano by Schubert and Gershwin.

As was only to be expected, the songs were all about gentle breezes and fragrant flowers, cold nights and icy winds, swishing fountains and the shining moon, love fulfilled in happy dreams, unrequited love and weary souls, silent forests and dreaming mountains, singing birds and village belles, lonely hearts and eternal hopes . . .  The program notes containing a quaint translation of the texts revealed the meaning of every song to the audience.  But if the German texts had also been given side by side, it would have benefited some of us who could have savoured the words better with such a visual aid.

The program was not insubstantial, judged by the thrifty standards usually adopted by visiting Western musicians. But one could not help wishing that the mezzo-soprano had rendered a few songs of Schumann and Wolf too -- for their works of this genre are no less famous than those of Schubert or Brahms, and even a short glimpse of them would have given us a wider view of the whole concept of Lieder.     

Clamor for more

The second concert, totally dedicated to the works of Mozart (whose bicentenary is being celebrated this year), was given by the Tubingen Chamber Orchestra from Germany.  It is a fairly large ensemble consisting of about 20 musicians, and featuring several violins, violas, cellos, oboes, horns, a flute and a contrabass. The large concert hall was nearly filled with eager and attentive music-lovers, which lifted the spirit of the orchestra. 

The works featured were a symphony (Kv.14), a flute concerto (Kv.313), and a violin-and-viola concerto (Kv.364).  The performance, conducted by the orchestra's founder Helmut Calgeer, was distinguished by its cool precision and elegant sound.  The soloists Susanne Calgeer (violin), Ulrich Knorzer (viola), and Hans Dunschede  (flute) acquitted themselves well, and attracted a warm response from the audience.

Although the concert did not lack in substance, it failed to satisfy the listeners for the simple reason that everybody seemed to be clamoring for more but the visitors were not prepared to extend the recital beyond giving a couple of short encores.

I have said this before, and I shall say it again now :  those of us in Delhi who choose to attend such events look not only for entertainment but also for considerable enlightenment.  This is something touring foreign musicians must be clearly told by the local organizers.  And we like much longer sessions of music, brothers and sisters from the Western world! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Between Ounce-glasses Of Bitter Medicine, A Pot Of Liquid Gold !

Four years after starting my campaign (in THE HINDU's New Delhi edition) for standardizing longer and more substantial recitals of Western classical music by visiting foreign musicians , I found that the scenario hadn't changed to any significant extent.  Later on I would be obtaining some fresh insights in this context ;  but in 1990, I still believed that the local organizers weren't trying seriously to influence the visiting artists in this regard, although they all seemed to appreciate my point of view. 

So I continued to put a lot of pressure on them.  However, not wishing to harm their image in the Capital's Western music circles (which would have been extremely counter-productive), I always tried to moderate my criticism in the newspaper.  And also, rather than flogging the issue frequently in specific contexts, it was more tactful to discuss it in general terms now and then, particularly when writing a rave review in some exceptional case, like the following :-
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New Delhi

16 November 1990

Music flows like liquid gold

With visiting musicians from the West usually tending to give extremely short recitals lasting just about an hour or so (and that too, split up into two halves by a long intermission), lovers of Western art music in New Delhi seldom get a chance to leave the concert hall with any great sense of fulfillment.  And of course, the better the music, the greater the frustration!  This practice of measuring out the music in an ounce glass may be all right in the West, where its art music overflows ;  but here in India, where one does not have many opportunities to hear it in live concerts, this is just not appropriate.  

It is a pity that our well-meaning organizers -- to whom we are truly grateful for arranging whatever concerts we do have -- never seem to think of taking up this aspect seriously with the visitors, who may well be glad to oblige us with much longer concerts, if only they knew what positive response they would get from us.

Anyway, the piano recital given by Roman Rudnytsky from America at the India International Center last Monday evening (organized by the IIC, the Delhi Music Society and the US Information Service) turned out to be a rare exception.  The pianist was very generous by the usual standard, and performed for well over 90 minutes, with a mercifully short intermission, in a full and enthusiastic house.  And his music was well worth hearing, every bit of it.  His sound is rich, and it is soulful.  His mastery of technique is admirable, and enables him to play the most complicated scores with the greatest ease.  His virtuosity is matched by his sensitivity, and together they produce a warmth which makes the music glow.

Rudnytsky rendered a Schubert impromptu (Op. 90/4), a Beethoven sonata (Op. 110), and extracts from an Albeniz suite (Iberia) in the first half of the concert.  These were followed by Copland's Piano Sonata, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Chopin's Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise (Op. 22).  Each of these works has its own inimitable beauty, which was brought out with great clarity by the master musician.  The power and vigour of his performance are awesome, but they are tempered by the delicate and caressing quality of his touch.  All these elements blend into a style which makes the music flow like liquid gold.

Rudnytsky seemed extremely relaxed and confident, playing all the chosen works with abandon, never once looking at a score for support, obviously having got them all by heart.  Living far away from the great centers of Western art music, I am not very familiar with some of the works I heard on Monday.  I cannot really say whether the pianist did play perfectly all the time, or skipped a note here or missed a beat there.  But I can truthfully declare that the music lifted my spirit sky-high, and bound me in a spell from which I am still to recover. 

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PostScript, 2016

Solid gold

Recalling the above article a quarter-century after writing it, I couldn't help turning to YouTube to re-discover Roman Rudnytsky , if possible.  And what do you think I found?  Solid gold, I assure you!   Just take a look yourself :   

                                    Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody 15 - Roman Rudnysky

Friday, June 10, 2016

Brick And Bouquet : Jarring Jazz Vs. Sculpted Quintets

As I said earlier, the surprisingly wide communication gap between visiting foreign musicians and resident Western-music-lovers in New Delhi during the concluding decades of the 2oth century used to cause two different kinds of extreme dissatisfaction, both of which I had described as 'bitter medicine' :  (1) very frequently, authentic and superior music was dispensed to a highly enthusiastic audience in  absurdly small doses ; and (2) perhaps not so regularly, strangely dissonant and distorted music was presented to us, as if we were interested in them, which we certainly weren't. 

In both such contexts, many visiting musicians -- who must have been going on extensive foreign tours -- often seemed to be anxious to demonstrate to us, in this far-away foreign land, just how they were usually performing in their own cultural milieus -- where their kind of music would be overflowing, creating a need for very short recitals, and perhaps also some amusement and comic relief now and then.  But we didn't need such protection from potential monotony in India, because the flow of Western classical music (or even jazz) here was extremely thin.  
Whenever I found fault with the music on such occasions in my Friday column in THE HINDU -- holding the local organizers responsible for not guiding the visiting foreign musicians properly in this regard -- I was anxious to balance the adverse comments with some sincere appreciation for their initiative in organizing Western music events in New Delhi, like somehow cultivating shady oases in a barren desert.

And my criticism was most colorful when I was able to hurl a heavy brick with one hand and offer a lovely bouquet with the other simultaneously, as in the following case :-    

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Max Müller Bhavan  --  The branches of the Goethe Institut -- the globally active German language and cultural institution --  in India's metro cities  used to be called Max Müller Bhavan, to honor the 19th-century Indologist Max Müller (Bhavan meaning 'house' or 'institution'  in Hindi).  Nowadays these centers are called 'Goethe Institut' -- and 'Max Müller Bhavan' is just given as the address sometimes.  I don't  really know when this transition took place, and why. 

India International Center  (IIC)  --  Exclusive culture-oriented institution in New Delhi, with some of the most eminent Indians, and resident foreign diplomats, as Members. 

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New Delhi

23 Oct. 1987

The bizarre and the beautiful 

Within the span of a few days last week, the Max Müller Bhavan and the India International Center jointly organized two concerts in the compact IIC auditorium :  one by the German Free-Jazz duo Peter Broetzman (saxophone and clarinet) and Peter Kowald (bass), and the other by the Bonn Woodwind Quintet.

One would have thought that 'free jazz' is a redundant expression, because jazz itself is free music, improvisation being its very essence.  The question is :  how free can art become? Can good music be produced without any ground rules whatsoever, or without reference even to aesthetic values? 

Just as the rights of the individual in society are matched by his obligations, in the performing arts too freedom must be exercised  within certain limits which must be tacitly understood if not explicitly defined.  Otherwise liberty is likely to become licence, which is hardly desirable unless one belongs to an abstract school of thought which cares nothing for form or structure, let alone substance and beauty. 

We are informed that Broetzmann is a pioneer of 'European Free Jazz', and is the founder of a West German venture called Free Music Production, of which Kowald is a leading member.  Having stretched the definition of jazz itself so as to transcend even the conventional freedom which it has always enjoyed, the visiting artists offered us two half-hour sessions of untitled, free-wheeling music which sounded not merely dissonant, but anarchic.  But the absence of order alone need not have deprived it of beauty, for the utterly strange can also be beautiful. What really made the music create a barren impression in our minds was its consistently harsh, abrasive and raucous quality.

Aberrations in sound

Having no particular route to follow, the two artists produced an uneven assortment of sounds, sometimes going solo, but generally playing together.  If the baritone-sax growled and grunted, the bass groaned and gurgled.  If the tenor-sax screamed, the string instrument squeaked.  If the clarinet wailed, the double-bass droned.  While Broetzmann wrestled with his apparatus and blew his breath into it for all he was worth, Kowald leaned on his instrument, scraping, plucking and gnawing the strings, sometimes even beating them with the bow.  

The effect of all this hectic labor was to create the imagery of sacrificial birds in agony, wild beasts locked in battle, or some science-fiction machine grinding and grating away on alien rocks.  There were occasional traces of ethnic influences, particularly of Eastern Europe, but by and large the music did not seem to have any specific cultural orientation.

The bizarre proceedings were apparently more than what the audience could bear :  and although the auditorium was full when the concert started, the majority of listeners found the intermission a convenient time to disappear.

Lovers of Western music in Delhi constitute an international set.  On the whole we are not too conservative, and some of us do welcome even the presentation of avant-garde music.  But perhaps there are boundaries beyond which our vision gets blurred and we lose our ability to enjoy and appreciate.  While the organizers must be praised for their efforts to produce for us a cross-section of what is currently going on in the West, they might do well to consider our own priorities when they invite foreign artists to perform here.

Sculptures in sound

By contrast, the Bonn Woodwind Quintet's recital last Sunday evening had tremendous popular appeal.  On this occasion too the house was full in the beginning, and it stayed that way till the end.  The main compositions featured in the program were  three superb quintets by  Bach (B-major), Mozart (C-minor, K.406), and Beethoven (E-flat major, Op. 71).

The artists were Andreas  Bossier (flute), Klaus Relet (oboe), Michael Neuhalfen (clarinet), Gustav Kedves (French forn), and Wolfgang Sorge (bassoon).  They all combined well to produce a rich and clear tone which was honey to our ears.

What a serene and wonderful experience it was to listen to this noble music, the slow and lively movements alternating and evoking vivid images of Gothic structures, royal banquets, and aristocratic dances!  Though admittedly among the less monumental works of the great composers, these splendid pieces have an enchanting quality which appeals to one's imagination.  Performing them with great precision and insight, the Bonn Quintet recaptured for us in Delhi all the elegance of a bygone European era.

Even in terms of sheer sound, the music had infinite beauty ;  hearing it in a live concert given by such accomplished musicians was like contemplating an exquisitely chiseled marble sculpture of ancient Greece or Rome.  For making this marvelous experience possible, we owe the organizers a special vote of thanks. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waiting For A Wasted Evening Of Western Music

In the preceding few blogs this month (June 2016), I had recalled some of my reflections in THE HINDU's New Delhi and Madras editions -- separated by 30 years, not less! -- expressing a strong and strikingly similar grievance about the prevailing live Western music scenarios: that visiting foreign musicians were usually quite insensitive to our earnest desire to hear substantial live sessions of authentic Western classical music, and tended to dole out their excellent music to us in extremely small doses, like some bitter medicine.   In the above contexts, I hadn't used the analogy of 'bitter medicine' to mean the quality of the music, but the quantity.

There were, however, certain other contexts in which the character of the music itself could be described as a bitter medicine, because the musicians seemed to be equally insensitive to our tastes, preferences and expectations, and often tended to inflict on us some bizarre works of music which made no sense at all to us in this part of the world.  So then, here's a sample for you!   

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New Delhi 

28 August 1987 

We never asked for this

In spite of an occasional shower, this freak summer of 1987 is showing no signs of really going away, and the sweltering heat continues to bog us down in the Capital.  But after several successive weeks of zero-level activity, the performing arts have started showing some signs of life again.

Probably the current events had been planned much in advance, and the organizers might be finding it difficult to postpone them simply because the awful weather happens to be continuing unexpectedly.  This must be specially so in the case of foreign musicians scheduled to perform here.

If I were an Englishman, I would hate to visit New Delhi in this stewing season ;  but if the British Council and the India International Center had booked me well in advance for a concert this week, I suppose I wouldn't be able to avoid coming over and sweating it out here!  This was the thought which crossed my mind as I saw Timothy Walker from England playing the guitar at the IIC last Tuesday evening, loosely wearing an informal shirt like any of us.  (His companion on flute, Judith Hall, however, appeared in a formal evening gown).

Attentive audience

The first half of the program featured some sublime music, the highlights being Bach's Suite in C-Minor, and Giuliani's Grosse Sonata.  Although the audience was guilty of applauding after every movement (which was repeatedly acknowledged by the performers with amused smiles), they heard the music in grim and breathless silence.

Both Judith Hall and Timothy Walker are accomplished players of their chosen instruments, and are associated with leading orchestras in London.  In the classical numbers the flute naturally dominated, with the guitar figuring only in a supporting role.

After the intermission, however, there was an abrupt transformation in the mood and the method.  It looked as if the guitarist wanted to assert himself with a vengeance, and some of the works chosen for this part of the program were so devised as to produce the most peculiar sounds and effects.

Take the piece called 'Five Seasons', by Jonathan Lloyd.  The pianist announced that it had some Indian overtones:  this was quite true, but it had many other things besides.  The guitarist pulled and plucked at his strings vigorously, then wildly ;  he patted and thumped on his guitar with his palm, to produce an assortment of percussive sounds.  The overall effect, I must say, wasn't very pleasing.  

A short, lovely piece by Rodrigo came next, but the relief was short-lived, for it was followed by a work by David Bedford which not only revived, but enlarged the bizarre mood created by 'Five Seasons'.

Comic exercise

Once again turning part-time percussionist, the guitarist just let himself go : pulling and plucking, tapping and thumping -- and, oh yes, he did much more than that this time!  He clouted the guitar with his knuckles, turned it round and gave its back a good rubbing-down.  He pulled out some metallic object from his pocket and pecked at the guitar with it.  He shoved a folded sheet of paper under the strings and produced some muffled sounds.  He scraped and scratched -- and even tickled the guitar, if you like -- making some of the weirdest noises ever produced by a musical instrument.  The only thing he didn't do was to smash the guitar or step on it!  

Who exactly is David Bedford, and what kind of music is this?  Perhaps only Stockhausen's admirers would be able to appreciate such a strange exercise!  We wait for weeks and months in Delhi for some live Western music, and we do expect to be offered something which lifts our spirit.  Are we to observe a musical instrument being treated like a toy in a kindergarten, and pretend to  be carried away?

But in fairness to the composer and the performer, I must acknowledge that a clue was provided by the title of the piece : You Asked For It.  I dare say in a place like London or Paris, where live Western music daily overflows, this kind of prank might be providing a not unpleasant comic relief.  But let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen of the West, we never asked for it in New Delhi! 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Dispensing And Consuming Western Classical Music Like A Strong Medicine

As mentioned in the preceding blog, I had introduced the idea of Performance vs. Preferences (of visiting foreign musicians and local Western-music-lovers respectively) in the very first article in my Friday music column in THE HINDU's New Delhi edition in 1986.  I had the Editor's telepathic permission to write as I wished, without any likely limits to my freedom of expression and style -- and it wasn't long before I reviewed the prevailing scene from an intensely personal angle, as a life-long lover of Western classical music in these alien settings in India : 

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HMV  (His Master's Voice)  --  Pioneering British gramophone and records company, which used to have a huge and almost monopolistic presence in India for the best part of the 20th century.

Rs. 200 (Rupees 200)  --  At the rate of exchange in the 1960s (Rs. 3.50 per US Dollar), this would have been about US $ 60.

IIC  (India International Center)  --  Exclusive culture-oriented institution in New Delhi, with some of the most eminent Indians, and resident foreign diplomats, as Members.  But there is nothing exclusive about the cultural events organized by the Center, whether or not in association with other institutions  -- and anyone who cares to turn up is admitted free of charge, even if the small house is full or overflows (as often happens).     

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New Delhi

30 January 1987

Music, memories and medicine

In the early Fifties, when I was a very young student in Madras, long-playing records and tape-recorders were still expensive novelties, and most of us did not have ready access to them.  I recall an occasion when the British Council organized a short session of recorded music on their Mount Road premises, when the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings by Brahms was played.  It was a great thrill to attend this program, and the terrific impression the music made on me is still fresh in my memory.  

Around that time, most of the classical music I heard came on the short-wave radio.  I was fortunate enough to own a very powerful super-heterodyne receiver made in England, which my father had bought before the Second World War, and I used to capture broadcasts from most of the European capitals on my set.  Symphonies, concertos, sonatas, operas -- all these were generally heard through this medium.  The reception was usually crystal-clear (though sometimes mildly disturbed by static), and the experience was always stimulating.

In 1958-60 I was living in Calcutta, and although LP records had come to stay, record-players were still very expensive.  (This was before HMV introduced their cheap 'Sherpa' machine, which was sold for under Rs. 200).  The Philips showroom on Park Street used to organize an hour-long weekly session of recorded Western music in a cool air-conditioned hall, with a cup of steaming coffee served during the intermission.  Over a period of time, in this forum one obtained many worthwhile impressions of the great masters of Western classical music :  composers as well as conductors and performers.
For ages now, many of us have been privileged to possess excellent hi-fi audio equipment -- though we have not yet been initiated into the laser-disc culture in India -- and one no longer experiences thrills of that Park-Street kind of listening to recorded music.  But even now, one does feel a special thrill when attending the live chamber music performances of visiting Western virtuosi, organized by some dedicated institutions in the Capital and other major cities in India.

Sweet music . . .

I recaptured some of that old mood last Monday evening, when I attended a recital of violinist Maurizio Pepe and pianist Marco Cima from Italy, in the compact auditorium of the India International Center, featuring some short works by Schumann, Schubert and Brahms.  The concert was organized by the IIC, Delhi Music Society and the Cultural Center of the Italian Embassy.

Pepe is a popular radio artist in Italy, who has also been giving successful concerts in Europe, and he heads the violin department in the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro.  Cima, who is just 22 years old, has some concert experience as a pianist.

The concert got off to a good start with Schumann's Sonata in A Minor (opus 105).  Schumann's sonatas are known for their highly lyrical quality, and the duo successfully brought out the sonorous texture of the music.

This was followed by a short and simple Sonatina in D Major (opus 137, No. 1) by Schubert, whose works are also distinguished for their melodic excellence.  A sonatina, of course, is a fairly elementary composition, and the selection seemed to fit in well with the youthful image of the pianist.

After the intermission, two works of Brahms were presented. The progression from Schumann to Brahms made one recall the very special relationship which had existed between the two composers.  Schumann was also a constructive music critic and editor of a prestigious music journal in Leipzig.

. . . And bitter medicine

The Sonata No. 3 in D Minor (opus 108) by Brahms is not just an easy exercise like the preceding work, but a richly loaded composition, which was rendered with precision and clarity.  The audience was appreciative and eager to hear more of this music ;  but after following up this number with a very short piece -- Brahms' isolated Scherzo in C Minor -- which lasted all of four minutes, the Italians called it a day (or should I say evening?).  Not even a couple of earnest curtain calls could make them give us an encore.

Leaving the auditorium in a wistful mood, I could not help thinking what a pity it is that visiting European musicians invariably give such short recitals here.  Those of us who love Western classical music in India do wait so patiently for these occasional events, full of fond memories and expectations of the kind I have described ; and we invariably find that the music is measured out to us in an ounce glass, as if it is a bitter medicine! 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Western Music In Alien Setting : Performance Vs. Preferences

L'affaire Vienna-Madras, about which I wrote in the last two blogs, set my mental clock back and revived strong memories of a similar scenario I had encountered in New Delhi 30 years ago. 

In September 1986, I was assigned the role of Carnatic and Western music critic of THE HINDU in New Delhi.  How this happened is an interesting story which I shall tell some other time.  THE HINDU -- which was (and still is, 30 years later) the dominant and most prestigious English language newspaper in South India, with a world-wide reputation  -- had just started an edition in New Delhi ;  and Mr. G. Kasturi, the Editor, thought I had the proper credentials to write a composite column reviewing both South Indian and Western classical music activity in the Capital.

Mr. Kasturi knew quite well that my knowledge of music (whether Indian or foreign) was sufficiently inadequate ( ! ) to prevent me from becoming a technically self-conscious and tedious music critic.  Apparently he also believed that as an articulate layman I could write something useful about cultural trends and traditions, artistic, ethical and moral values, as well as environmental issues, looking at things equally and impartially from the points of view of organizers, musicians and music-lovers.  

As I was writing the very first article in my weekly column, I knew I had an important cause to pursue -- trying to bridge a wide communication gap which seemed to exist between visiting foreign musicians, local/foreign organizers, and the small cosmopolitan community of Western-music-lovers in New Delhi, regarding the preferences and actual expectations of the normal audience in this alien environment.  And thus began what soon became an earnest campaign :-

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Carnatic/Hindustani music  --  Classical music of South/North  India. 

Zubin Mehta (b. 1936)  --  The world-famous conductor -- with deep-rooted connections in Vienna, Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and New York -- hails from Bombay.

FICCI  --  Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Ravi Shankar  (1920-2012)  --  Indian sitarist with international reputation.  (Sitar  is one of the twin prime string instruments of Hindustani music, the other one being Sarod).
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New Delhi

19  Sept. 1986

Sparkling but short!

An advantage of living in New Delhi -- as in a few other cities like Bombay and Calcutta -- is that one has a chance to hear a certain amount of Western classical music, which is not substantial by any means, but which is not quite negligible either. 

Of course, it is only very rarely that we have an opportunity to hear live orchestral music, and this limited fare is provided by the Delhi Symphony Orchestra, which is manned by an ad hoc group of professional and amateur musicians drawn from various sources.  We are extremely proud of the DSO, but the fact remains that we don't have access to a world-class Western classical music orchestra.  

The performance of the New York Symphony Orchestra here two years ago was a very exceptional event, which took place only because its conductor Zubin Mehta had a compelling nostalgic wish to fulfill.  One does not envisage any major orchestra in the world visiting India for the time being, because we don't still have an auditorium in any city with the necessary infrastructural facilities, and such an event may not also be financially viable at present.

The mainstream of live Western classical music in the Capital consists of performances by outstanding individual musicians or chamber music groups visiting from abroad.  There is a dedicated core of Western-music-lovers of various nationalities (including Indians) in New Delhi, who eagerly look forward to these occasions and listen to the music with great interest.

But a constant source of frustration for them is that the music offered is by and large severely rationed, in keeping with the Western traditions.

Pleasing but disappointing

No wonder the large, enthusiastic gathering which turned up at the FICCI auditorium last Friday evening to hear a violin-and-piano recital by Igor Oistrakh and Leonid Blok of the Soviet Union was pleased and disappointed at the same time, because the music was so sparkling but the concert was so short.  (The event was organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations).

Igor Oistrakh (born 1931) is the son of the late and legendary violinist David Oistrakh (1908-74), who was an outstanding master of the Russian school of violinists, and had a stature similar to Yehudi Menuhin's.  Though Igor has not risen to his father's level of eminence, he has achieved great distinction with his modern and objective outlook, and his cool tone and subdued style.  Leonid Blok, who accompanied him on the piano, is also a distinguished Soviet musician.

The first part of the performance featured two sonatas for violin and piano by Mozart and Grieg, which were rendered exquisitely.  Resuming the recital after a long intermission, the artists presented a very short composition by Tchaikovsky, called Meditation -- which ended before one could even start meditating! -- and then three crisp pieces by the contemporary Russian composer Khrennikov, dedicated to Igor Oistrakh.

A lilting Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saens followed, with its Spanish colors -- and presto, the recital was over!  Repeated curtain calls, however, brought the artists back to give a couple of brief encores -- Hungarian Dance by Liszt and a lively polonaise by Wieniawsky.

Frugal fare

All of which added up to just about an hour's music!  But this was by no means an unusual occurrence.  There seems to be a rigid convention in the West to give very brief recitals ;  but living in India , we cannot help wondering why Western classical musicians tend to be so reluctant to give freely of their music to those who love it.  

Perhaps in their own milieu, where they perform frequently, there may be some justification for being so brief.  But what is the point of travelling thousands of miles to a foreign country and city where Western music does not flow freely, assembling a set of eager listeners whose appetite for the music is enormous, and then treating them to such frugal fare?

It would be unreasonable to suggest that Western musicians must act contrary to their own established values under any circumstances.  But must these values be so very inflexible really?  Is it not a fact that when great Indian musicians like Ravi Shankar perform abroad, they do modify their traditional leisurely approach and render much shorter recitals to suit the temperament of the foreign audiences?

On the other side of the coin, would it be wrong on our part to wish that when Western classical musicians perform over here, they could be a little more generous with their offerings and give us much greater satisfaction?