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Baroda violinist evokes mixed response

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The Economic Times, November 19, 1989

Maharashtra’s contribution to Hindustani instrumental music has, by and large, been far less significant than that in the vocal field. All the same, it will not be fair to overlook or underestimate the greatness of instrumental veterans who, though few, have achieved eminence. Strange but true, most of them happen to be violinists. The names that immediately come to mind are those of the late Gajananrao Joshi, who pioneered the introduction of the western instrument in the Hindustani field in Maharashtra.

Equally worthy was the chief disciple, Shridhar Parsekar, who died young, but not without setting new trends in technique and presentation without any compromise whatever on authenticity. There are few others, happily still in our midst, who are seen to popularise the violin music in the Hindustani way all over the country as well as abroad, with distinction. Among them are V.G. Jog, D.K. Datar and Vasant Ranade, whose achievements as topmost virtuosi have been recognised.

An opportunity to listen to Ranade came my way on November 13, when he was featured by “Kalavardhini” at an evening concert at the Dadar-Matunga cultural Centre auditorium.

Ranade, who currently heads the department of instrumental music of Baroda University, has had the benefit of tutelage first from his vocalist father, and then from scholar musicians like S. B. Deshpande of Jabalpur and S. N. Ratanjankar and, finally, from the sarod maestro, Ali Akbar Khan. Curiously, the artiste has somehow chosen to shy away from concert appearances only to devote himself completely to the propagation of classical music through teaching.

It was, therefore, naturally heartening to find that the rigours of teaching have done little to impair his performing virtues. Ranade, who was brilliantly accompanied by Suresh Talwalkar on the tabla, began his recital with a sixty-minute exploration of the profound dusk-time melody Shree, first in alap, jod and jhala, followed by rhythmic compositions in vilambit jhaptaal and drut teentaal. The succeeding number in Jhinjhoti, a two-tier composition in teentaal, was moving for its utterly touching patterns and sequences.

By contrast, brevity marked the post-interval renditions in Shabhana which comprised medium and fast rhythmic bandishes, both set to teentaal, a tune based on the perennially popular Marathi stage song, “Chandrika hee janu”, and another bhajan tune, also based on a Marathi abhang, which was the tailpiece.

Yet, in effect and achievement, the two-and-a-half-hour recital tended to afford only mixed fare. On the credit side, there was the undoubted master’s touch in the entire performance. Ranade was musical to the core even in the faster work, and the playing showed crystal clarity of tone and smooth, soothing browing. Equally astounding was the precision of his finger-work specially revealed in the way he imbibed, so ingeniously, the Carnatic technique in his style. These reminded one of Parsekar. The Carnatic-oriented gamaks and layakari were truly charming.

But what one sense, on the debit side, was the artiste’s inability to achieve a judicious balance between originality and virtuosity. Too much emphasis on the rhythmic aspect in the faster progressions in Shree only served to dilute its very character. If the Jhinjoti was possible the best, it was because it emerged – because of its briefer, neat and tidy presentation. The Shahana was all too brief and sketchy to create its springhtly mood.


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