Violins at Fisherman’s Cove

I went to Fisherman’s Cove on the 15th to hear the Carnatic violinist L. Subramaniam (his website includes a page on the Indian violin). The occasion was the release of a DVD: L. Subramaniam Live at the Royal Albert Hall, issued by Music Today. The sponsors of the event were Standard Charted Bank and the Taj. After brief speeches by several dignitaries, LS spoke about such things as his affinity for Chennai, where he was born and raised; about his reverence for his father, also a violinist, who, he said, had made the Carnatic violin a solo instrument, when it had been strictly an accompanying instrument; and who had pioneered new techniques such as plucked strings, etc. He has a remarkably gentle presence.

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After the speeches LS and his musicians performed for an hour, playing two Thyagaraja kritis. The first was, as far as I could tell, quite traditional. The second, which included solos by the percussionists, ended with a crescendo by LS and his violinist son, Ambi, which sounded to me as if it had some western influence, especially in his playing of double-stops – two or more notes at once, almost like chords. (I venture to say this because I know that he has performed many times with western musicians; but if I’m wrong, do tell me!)

LS’s sound is rich and resonant, but he was over-miked, so that it sounded as if he were playing an electric violin, more than a vibrating wooden instrument. I wish that in intimate settings, people could turn down the (electric) volume – but no one seems to agree with me. It was wonderful anyway.

Then cocktails and dinner outdoors, among trees and many small lights, in the coolest weather Chennai is capable of. (Ahem, I hesitate to mention the mosquitoes that attacked my ankles, and the crows which sent down their liquid blessings on both me and my husband. And the 45 minute drive from the city, in the heavy Friday night traffic. But these are part of life in Chennai, after all.)

In the course of his remarks, LS said that corporates generally sponsor things like fashion shows, and that it was good that they had come out in support of classical music on this occasion. I hope that this may become a trend.

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