S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Neyveli at his nuanced best

The Concert Scene

By R Narayanan


At a ten-day Rama Navami concert series recently organised by Parampara,  Neyveli Santhanagopalan seemed to have decided to make his opening concert as subtle and nuanced as Rama himself. The rasika had to listen with rapt attention, as otherwise the subtle sangatis and nuanced interpretation would go in overhead transmission! Fortunately, my eyes closed on their own and remained closed most of the time, so I could soak in the anubhavam.

The Harikambhoji masterpiece Enta rani tanakenta poni seemed to signal Neyveli's intentions: "I will never stray from your proximity"! And he never strayed from the corenot just proximityof the subtle and the hidden. As he reflected the soul of Saint Tyagaraja in the rendering, I experienced goosebumps all over. They intensified when he next sang the Vanaspati supplication Pariyachakama mata in absolute vilambam and the melancholy of Tyagaraja over 180 years ago was all pervasive in the here and now. (I was happy to learn later that this was a request of Hariharan Ramanath fulfilled on the spot!).

Next came one of Santhanagopalan's favourite ragas, Purvikalyani, aglow with gamakas all his own, and Swati Tirunal's grand Deva deva jagadeeswara jaya bhujaga.  As Neyveli emotively sang the first charanam on Gajendra moksham, again the goosebumps! 

Now came the main suite in Kharaharapriya.The raga essay was long, unhurried and etched throughout with only the subtlest and most nuanced sangatis. The rasikas, as I said before, had better listen with eyes closed! It was at once refreshing in refinement and moving in the unusual sancharas.

To his great credit, MA Krishnaswamy ( Krishnaswamy Swamy) responded with an identical essay, never mind that this was completely different from the assertive Kharaharapriya essays of the Parur school. His playing was, therefore, specially enchanting. The magnum Rama niyeda prema rahitulaku namaruchi delusuna, where the composer reveals eternal verities in the form of a series of questions, evoked just the right mood on which Neyveli wanted to rest his case of the whole evening. The long swarakalpana built to a finale of a jati based crescendo riding repeatedly on arohana avarohana patterns,and this found the violinist in his element in each and every riposte.

The tani of the trio of Umayalpuram Mali, BS Purushotham and Rajaram simply took off from the finale of swaras and gave a formidable and choreographed rhythmic pattern that left the audience asking for more.

As is his wont, Vedanth Ramanujam of Parampara asked me on the spur of the moment to flag off the series. I could share some thoughts on the venue, the occasion, the series last year and especially on what is so special about Neyveli Santhanagopalan, the man, and the musician.

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