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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ehsaas-e-Kashmir Concert - Zubin Mehta

I don’t know the political or historic significance of the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir Concert (Performed by Bavarian State Orchestral from Munich and Conducted by Zubin Mehta), I got to know the date and time of the live telecast of the Concert on DD National Channel because I follow on A.R.Rahman on Twitter whose timely tweet on the same helped and as a follower of Ilaiyaraaja’s music for past 20 years, I developed some taste for Orchestral music and such Western classical concerts happen very rarely in India.

Few years ago, Zubin Mehta had come to Chennai to conduct an Orchestra for a Concert celebrating 250th Anniversary of Mozart in Music Academy. I badly wanted to attend, because, then, I hadn’t seen in my life even one live performance of any Symphony Orchestra, but later, every time I got a chance to travel out of India, I attended at least one Concert by the local Symphony Orchestra. It is an experience listening and also watching a collective sound emerging from hundred musicians all doing all different things at once.

The first piece of the concert was a real surprise; I didn’t think they would try such a thing. The piece had a simple and charming folksy Kashmiri melody tossed between the Western Symphony Orchestra and an ensemble of traditional Kashmiri instruments (Oud, Rabaab, and Santoor) and it was a delightful sound. The conversation between the two worlds was simple, gentle with each supporting the others’ statement and without major counterpoints. Western orchestra brings an exuberance and largeness to the sweet little bouncy Indian melody. I woke up with this melody playing in my head the next day. It is usual practice to end such Classical concerts ends with an energetic piece with loud pounding percussion, clashing cymbals, roaring brass and the strings running in a hyper speed and Strauss’s piece Lightning and Thunder did that for this Concert but surprisingly Zubin Mehta wanted the audience leave on a different kind of high and quite fittingly the reprise of the first piece, the Kashmiri music, though just the last few bars were played, helped the concert end on a much elated note.

I am not used to listening to full length Symphony concerts. Some sections of Symphonies or Concertos tend to meander a lot. But, I guess they knew that Indians are not really that much into Western classical music, they have wisely chosen pieces or parts of the pieces (usually the third movement of a Symphony or a Concerto), which is brisk, rhythmic and where all parts of the orchestra actively engaged in the overall sound of the piece and such pieces keeps even a beginner engaged.

My idea of listening to these pieces is to catch hold of the main motif and follow its transformations and its journey through the piece and always staying alert for any new motif that spring in the subsequent movements. Of the Western classical pieces performed, the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto sounded incredible. I heard two varied motifs, one very melancholic and soulful, and other almost comical and bouncy. The Violin Soloist was totally into the piece; at one moment, he was about to fall as he was playing with his mind and body totally in Sync with the rhythm and contour of the piece. I always love the section of a Western Classical piece where the main motif is played as a Solo by each section of the orchestra, and even more so, when the melody is as delightful as it is in this one.

Hayden’s Trumpet Concerto, I don’t remember much. I have heard Beethoven’s 5th symphony before, and I am sure most of us would have heard bits and pieces of it or at least the main four-note motif “Pa Pa Pa Pom” somewhere (it was also sampled in the track “Main Hoon Yuvraaj” in Yuvraaj Soundtrack). The piece was explosive, and especially for the third movement everyone in the audience there (most of whom were yawning for earlier pieces) was listening to with rapt attention, with their heads shaking and feet tapping. I am no expert and I haven’t heard many live performances of Beethoven’s Fifth, and I cannot say how differently Zubin Mehta has interpreted the piece. In fact, I am yet to fully understand the role of a Conductor and what he brings to a piece being performed. I could just Google and read, but I am waiting for the purpose to hit me like the role of filmmaker in a film hit me or the role of a film score and a composer of it of a film hit me on its own without no one ever telling me about it.

DD’s coverage was neat, but I don’t know why they switched to a far off Camera, whenever the piece moved to sections where the whole orchestra explodes at a moment in the piece, at that distance, the Orchestra was barely visible. The camera rightly focused on the sections of the orchestra where the main action is at any given point of the piece. The sound could have been better, but then it is Open air and also I wasn’t watching in HD.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and I am eagerly waiting to watch it on YouTube again when I get back to the place where Internet speeds allow me to stream it at decent speed.

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