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Great Effort
Apr 07, 2006 06:14 PM 2764 Views
(Updated Apr 07, 2006 06:15 PM)


Here is a man who has done a western classical piece and also has performed it without any media blowing big trumpets from behind. Dr.L.Subramaniam (came to know about him when he was replaced by Illayaraja as composer for the movie “Heyram”) the famous Indian violin player has composed a Double concerto for flute (performed by Michael Martin Koefler) and Indian violin (performed by Dr.L.Subramaniam) and it was performed along with Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra. Though this is not a full-fledged western classical composition that could be played anywhere around the world, it is almost. It has got both Indian and western classical music without either of the forms disturbing the other. This being Subramaniam’s first orchestral work, he has done a remarkable job in writing this piece.

Strict to the form of Western classical concerto, it has fast-slow-fast three-movement structure. The first movement starts with a bang engaging the whole orchestra. Within few minutes, the composer lets us to understand how this journey is going to be by shifting alternatively to western orchestra and Indian ensemble in the fast prelude. After the prelude, the beautiful main theme is played in oboe. It is a theme that you can never classify as a western classical or Indian classical piece. It is just a beautiful melody. It is just music. When you hear it on oboe or clarinet it sounds western and when you hear it on Indian violin it sounds Indian. There are many more sub themes in this movement. A separate theme is written for the whole orchestra to break out with intermittently. Thus, the main theme development doesn’t happen in the western classical way here except at the end of this movement. Instead, the orchestra just develops the theme meant for it. The main theme development by lead Violin and flute is strictly in the Indian classical way. Flute takes the lead playing the main theme and stretches the theme further searching for all possible variations. I liked the conversation part between Indian Violin and Flute where Flute follows the Indian violin extending the range of the main theme. But when for the second time, the Indian Violin comes into picture; the whole orchestra takes a break. Indian violin and flute along with Mirudangam offers a strict Indian classical concert (katcheri) lengthy enough to forget that you were listening to a concerto. The only thing I didn’t like in this movement is the use of drum roll like we use to hear in the rock and roll music. Also, the Xylophone that immediately precedes this drum roll bit in the orchestra could have been used more subtly. Its volume level adds an immature sound to the composition. At least that is what my ears felt, though I am not elite in either form of music.

Second movement starts with a new theme. It is a very intimate theme that evokes a somber feel. For 12 minutes we hear nothing but this theme in its all-possible forms played by solo flute, violin, cello and strings. The tempo of this movement is too slow compared to the other two movements. Yet, the beauty of the theme and its development on various solos keeps us awake.

Third movement has got a new vivacious theme. This theme will better work as a rhythm than a melody. Though not bad, it sounds odd when this theme is played in Indian violin or the flute. But with the huge orchestra, this kind of theme provides ample scope for development. Finally, after having done enough romance with hardly touching each other in first two movements, the marriage of western classical instruments and the Indian classical ensemble happens in this movement. Even from the starting one can hear a voice singing the theme as a jathi in the background. It does sound unique and interesting to listen to a symphony orchestra along with Mirudangam, Morsing and other Indian instruments playing together.

Always an exciting moment waits in the last movement of such concertos where the main theme played in the first movement will reappear surprisingly at some point. At this moment we will get a relaxed, home coming feel. Actually in this movement, the theme of the second movement appears first without much effect. But as the movement progress towards the end, the full throttled orchestra suddenly comes to a pause and the clarinet starts to play the main theme. A truly exhilarating moment it is. I was expecting that the third movement will end much in the same way as the first movement with the whole orchestra playing the main theme of this movement in unison, but it ends with the instruments playing chords together, in a more conventional way.

“Double Concerto” is for sure a double treat for those who enjoy both Indian and western classical music. Though not sure how much a purist will like it.</font>

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Double Concerto - L.Subramaniam