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Svara Yantra - An Inspired Presentation

Ranjani Saigal

Svara Yantra, a fabulous creation by Shrish Korde which is an Indian influenced concerto, swept the audience away in a wave of notes and rhythms where Kerwani and Mishrapilu blended in with western scales and the Concert Mistress had a Jugalbandi with Tabla Maestro, Sameer Chatterjee. The concerto received a terrific response from the audience who came to Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory to see the opening of the Boston Philharmonic’s new season conducted by Benjamin Zander on Oct 20, 2007.

The evening opened with Alberto Ginastera's eloquent 1953 "Variaciones concertantes". “Though basically an abstract composition, this piece retains a strong sense of the Hispanic element, in the cello’s rhapsodic opening solo and especially in the harp’s accompaniment, built of stacked fourths that imitate the tuning of a guitar, a common harmonic device of Ginastrera’s music in that period,” said Zander in his pre concert introduction of the various pieces. Cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer and French Horn player Kevin Owens were wonderful.

The stage was reset to include Sameer Chatterjee with his Tabla and an Electronic Tanpura. Chatterjee sat on the floor in the traditional Indian way and opened the piece with the notes of the Tanpura.  The piece opened with what was termed as the “first movement”. It was an Alap in Rag Misra Pilu. The piece really brought out the character of the Raga even though the Alaap was orchestrated.  In the second movement Raga Kerwani was presented. Joanna Kurkowiz was clearly influenced by L.Subramanium and she was able to bring out the Carnatic music ideas through this presentation.  The idea of Jugalbandi was created via the use of Cadenzas where Kurkowiz and Chatterjee played improvisational pieces. In the final movement appropriately titled “Joy” both excelled in their presentation and created a few ecstatic moments.  The final piece for the evening was the famous “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Musorgsky. The piece was inspired by an exhibition of Victor Hartman’s work in St. Petersburg. The composer has a music piece describing each picture and it is brilliant.

Svara Yantra certainly stole the show for the evening. Perhaps for the first time one could a see a beautiful gateway for people trained in the western classical tradition to really see and appreciate the beauty of Indian music. The music was not fusion but authentic presentation of the two music forms side by side each enhancing the other while not diluting their own detail. The composer Shirish Korde has created something quite remarkable. The success of the piece was owed in no small part to brilliance of the performers whose expert musicianship helped bring forth the true character of the music.

We hope Korde will bring forth more such creations and produce and new Indian inspired direction with the Western Classical repertoire.

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