Last year, I wrote a piece on what went wrong in A.R.Rahman’s Hollywood Bowl concert (with L.A Philharmonic Orchestra) that happened in July, 2011. I listed down the reasons for the concert failing to engage the audience. Now, when I watch the videos of A.R.Rahman’s recent Classic Incantations concert, it seems my wishes were heard, my post was read (though highly unlikely); each and every glitch that I mentioned about Hollywood Bowl concert has been avoided in Classic Incantations concert.
"I do not like listening to orchestral concerts in the open-air auditorium, no matter how powerful a sound system you provide. The nuances in orchestral pieces are best experienced in a closed auditorium. And A.R.Rahman is no John Williams. Rahman’s orchestral pieces mostly are not chaotic, unpredictable, and bombastic and intricately layered enough to engage me in a live concert in an open auditorium. Rahman’s is mellifluous, haunting tunes that are just expanded on an orchestra with different sections playing supporting parts. Such pieces require the walls of a closed auditorium to give the audience an immersive experience. Compare the experience of listening to the performance of "Mausam and Escape" in Nobel Peace Prize concert with that of in Hollywood Bowl. I am glad to read that Rahman is planning for one such concert in India. I hope that when it happens, it happens in a closed auditorium. There may not be closed auditoriums in India that could pack in 20,000 people, which is the minimum number of attendees of any given Rahman concert. But, filling the hearts of a given number of people with joy and satisfaction is much better than merely filling a given auditorium space with more people most of whom would leave with a sense of disappointment."In all the five cities, the concert happens in a closed auditorium.
"The idea of playing visuals from the films in that giant screen has gone terribly wrong. I understand the purpose, non-Indian audiences and all that. But, this is ridiculous. The screen shows frantic action sequences from Endhiran, when the orchestra is performing a calm and subdued version of “Pudhiya Manidha”. It is such a distracting contrast. It totally turns off one’s interest in the music piece. And when you have Rajini on screen doing all those stunts, I wonder if anyone would paid any attention to the orchestral music. The audience cheered in the middle of Lagaan theme because the peak in the crescendo was perfectly synced with the visual of Aamir hitting that epic winning shot. This is the amount of satisfaction that a perfectly synchronized music and visuals can give the audience, but it looks like that did not happen in any of the pieces performed except Lagaan."No visuals from the films are played when the music is performed, only exception being the video clip of Robot, but that is played to make the audience understand the significance of the background score in a film. The video is played once without music, and again with the music to demonstrate the enhanced impact a film has on the viewer when experienced with the background music.
"“Arima Arima” chant by Ragapella group was totally out of sync with the orchestra. Also, the number of singers singing “Arima Arima” is less. It totally lacked the grandeur and was not effective. In an interview, Rahman told that he recorded Arima choir parts with 20 voices and overdubbed it multiple times to make it sound like a grand choir. At least 50 singers should have been there on the stage singing that part for that piece to be effective enough."KM Choir that performs along with Babelsberg film Orchestra includes 16 Male voices and 16 female voices.
"I am not sure if the suites compiled from the films’ cues were tight enough. There were too many middling loose moments in the middle of the piece. The transition from one cue to another in a suite is particularly crucial. It should be neither abrupt nor take too long. Seamless is the word. In Robot Suite, the middle section lingered far too long on ‘Pudhiya Manidha’ melody. There are so many other bombastic pieces in Robot. The whole suite includes only film’s End Credits music and few variations of Arima song. Mangal Pandey Suite also had the same problem."In Robot Suite, they perform only “Arima Arima” grand choir version from the climax of the film. I don’t know about other film score suites, though.
"However, “Naan Varuvaenae” is one of those few Rahman songs to which we could put a symphony behind. I would love to listen to it in better quality. But, in this concert, Rahman’s singing of “Naan Varuvaenae” was quite tentative and lacked the soul of the original.""Naan Varuvaenae" is not included in this concert. No singing by A.R.Rahman.
"I am not much in favour of putting a symphony orchestra behind Rahman’s songs. I could not recognize that the orchestra is playing “Tamizha Tamizha” melody, until the brass section took it over for the final crescendo of the song. “Cry of a Rose” is a Naveen show, symphony orchestra does not add much to the experience."Whether Roja Suite got any better? – I will know when I watch the concert live this week. Can’t Wait! Surprises A.R.Rahman has finally included that bombastic Rajini Introduction music from Muthu and the Choir-Orchestral version of the exuberant Aayo Re from Water. Furthermore, an Audio CD with Babelsberg Orchestra’s performance of all the symphonic pieces will be released soon. What more an A.R.Rahman fan can ask for?