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Dignified start, hurried end

Violin Trio
L Vaidyanathan
Dr L Subramaniam
Dr L Shankar
Rs 45

This famous Karnatak violin trio learnt from their father Laksmi Narayana Iyer. Apart from being proficient in Hindustani and Western classical styles, each of the brothers has composed for various media, is innovative in approach and unafraid to experiment.

L Subramaniam's Theme from the Global Music, featuring artistes from all over the world, was part of a cricket promotional cassette, released before the World Cup began.

The brothers' Western classical violin training is evident in their bowing technique. They begin this album with the dignified Viri boni in Bhairavi, a varnam composed by Panchamiriam Adiappaiah. The interpretation is traditional, the varnam unfolding in slow tempo and then moving to the medium tempo. The three violins blend marvellously, thanks to their co-ordinated bowing.

Not many Karnatak violinists pay attention to the bowing technique. For example, many notes can be played in one stroke of the bow, or the same note played with a downward or upward bow. These factors contribute to the interpretation of a piece. Co-ordinated bowing becomes essential for violin ensembles. Which in turn means a great deal of rehearsals, hours of painstaking work.

This trio proves how notes from a violin can sound silken. Palghat Mani Iyer seems to play the varnam itself on the mrudangam, so close is his following.

Suddha Seemantini is a minor raga with a plaintive touch thanks to the gandhara and rishabha being consecutive half-notes. Unlike Todi, which also has a consecutive gandhara and rishabha, this raga stresses the gandhara to evoke a wistful mood. In Todi, the ga is stressed to make it almost the antara gandhara.

The trio presents Janaki Rama with some restrained exploration of the raga and swara prasthara.

Side B starts with Harikesanallur Muthayya Bhagavathar's Samayamidhe in Budhamanohari. The raga was introduced by the composer himself and the composition is light, with unsustained notes reminiscent of Sarasara samare in Kuntalavarali and Manavyala.

Bilahari is the main raga on this album. The alapana is a hurried excuse for the elaboration a main piece deserves. Perhaps they could have done without the two minor pieces on Side B allowing themselves more time to render the main piece.

There is evidence of virtuosity in the fast multi octave sangathis, but there is very little sowkhyam. This is most disappointing. After the build up of Viri boni one expects more depth and intensity, especially in the raga chosen for elaboration. The brothers give in to the temptation to display their mastery over the violin and the swara prasthara is played at breakneck speed. Even if the raga depicts emotions like bravery, this display is uncalled for.

Palghat Mani Iyer's tani avarthanam is dignified and comes as a relief after the savage tempo.

The recording ends with two minor pieces, Thyagaraja's Idhi samayamura in Chayanata, and Koorvel Pazhitha, a Thirupuggazh by Arunagirinathar, in Madhyamavati.

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