Double Concerto - L.Subramaniam

Here is a man who has done a western classical piece and also has performed it without any media blowing big trumpets from behind. Dr.L.Subramaniam (came to know about him when he was replaced by Illayaraja as composer for the movie “Heyram”) the famous Indian violin player has composed a Double concerto for flute (performed by Michael Martin Koefler) and Indian violin (performed by Dr.L.Subramaniam) and it was performed along with Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra. Though this is not a full-fledged western classical composition that could be played anywhere around the world, it is almost. It has got both Indian and western classical music without either of the forms disturbing the other. This being Subramaniam’s first orchestral work, he has done a remarkable job in writing this piece.

Strict to the form of Western classical concerto, it has fast-slow-fast three-movement structure. The first movement starts with a bang engaging the whole orchestra. Within few minutes, the composer lets us to understand how this journey is going to be by shifting alternatively to western orchestra and Indian ensemble in the fast prelude. After the prelude, the beautiful main theme is played in oboe. It is a theme that you can never classify as a western classical or Indian classical piece. It is just a beautiful melody. It is just music. When you hear it on oboe or clarinet it sounds western and when you hear it on Indian violin it sounds Indian. There are many more sub themes in this movement. A separate theme is written for the whole orchestra to break out with intermittently. Thus, the main theme development doesn’t happen in the western classical way here except at the end of this movement. Instead, the orchestra just develops the theme meant for it. The main theme development by lead Violin and flute is strictly in the Indian classical way. Flute takes the lead playing the main theme and stretches the theme further searching for all possible variations. I liked the conversation part between Indian Violin and Flute where Flute follows the Indian violin extending the range of the main theme. But when for the second time, the Indian Violin comes into picture; the whole orchestra takes a break. Indian violin and flute along with Mirudangam offers a strict Indian classical concert (katcheri) lengthy enough to forget that you were listening to a concerto. The only thing I didn’t like in this movement is the use of drum roll like we use to hear in the rock and roll music. Also, the Xylophone that immediately precedes this drum roll bit in the orchestra could have been used more subtly. Its volume level adds an immature sound to the composition. At least that is what my ears felt, though I am not elite in either form of music.

Second movement starts with a new theme. It is a very intimate theme that evokes a somber feel. For 12 minutes we hear nothing but this theme in its all-possible forms played by solo flute, violin, cello and strings. The tempo of this movement is too slow compared to the other two movements. Yet, the beauty of the theme and its development on various solos keeps us awake.

Third movement has got a new vivacious theme. This theme will better work as a rhythm than a melody. Though not bad, it sounds odd when this theme is played in Indian violin or the flute. But with the huge orchestra, this kind of theme provides ample scope for development. Finally, after having done enough romance with hardly touching each other in first two movements, the marriage of western classical instruments and the Indian classical ensemble happens in this movement. Even from the starting one can hear a voice singing the theme as a jathi in the background. It does sound unique and interesting to listen to a symphony orchestra along with Mirudangam, Morsing and other Indian instruments playing together.

Always an exciting moment waits in the last movement of such concertos where the main theme played in the first movement will reappear surprisingly at some point. At this moment we will get a relaxed, home coming feel. Actually in this movement, the theme of the second movement appears first without much effect. But as the movement progress towards the end, the full throttled orchestra suddenly comes to a pause and the clarinet starts to play the main theme. A truly exhilarating moment it is. I was expecting that the third movement will end much in the same way as the first movement with the whole orchestra playing the main theme of this movement in unison, but it ends with the instruments playing chords together, in a more conventional way.

“Double Concerto” is for sure a double treat for those who enjoy both Indian and western classical music. Though not sure how much a purist will like it.


Prabhudas said...

I am surprised u were not aware of Dr.LS prior to Heyram, he is no less a great and internataionally well know Musician. U should try to get his other albums released in the past. He is the first one atleast in my opinion who truely introduced the Fusion Music in India, I was fortunate enough to see him in 2 live concerts in Bangalore. He comes from a a full pledged music family, IR had some aearly training from LS's father, the other two brothers of LS is also great musicians, L Vaidyanathan was a colleagure of IR when they were working together for GKV and L Shankar his other bro is also an internationally well known Violin and double Voilin player.
LS has scored for few movies as MD, Salaam Bombay is one of the notable ones, listen to his other albums and I am sure u will enjoy them thoroughly, he is married to Suchitra Krishnamurthy the Singer.
I will get hold of his Double Concerto album soon, looks like it will be a great one too.

V.P.Jaiganesh said...

Hi Prabhu!
It is Kavitha Krishnamurthy and not Suchitra Krishnamurthy. Suchitra is the wife of Shekar Kapur(?).
hi Suresh! They have a website which is maintained and updated by Kavitha. That site is a little bit blowing the trumpet kind of, so you might think of revising your opinions on the blowing the trumpet(I know you mean IR on this). Also your post in hub sounded so negative abt IR. I wonder why? IR's big plus was he knows Music, he knows cinema and he knows music for cinema. LS left the movie after fully completing everything , while IR walked in and composed BGM's including piano bits for "Nee Partha" without changing a single shot. Now thats a different level of genius(I am not comparing IR and LS here). IR is simply special becaouse he creates a fusion where a westerner, Indian, Indian villager and carnatic music all can enjoy the music calling it their "own", while other fusion masters combine just the style of music, with passages of different forms of music standing out separate, distinctly different from the other. IR makes coffee with Sugar, dicoction and milk, while others make a Pune mixture. Offcourse you can enjoy coffee as well as a mixture.

Suresh Kumar said...

Prabhudas: Will listen to it sure.

Jaiganesh: That was not intentional. That post of mine in FH was not to bash IR. I just want him to relese his First Symphony. The statements that i made there were just to praise Subramaniam. I too am a great fan of his. Thats is true. According to me, he is greatest in the world when it comes to scoring Background score for me and only next comes John williams and others in hollywood.

Anonymous said...

where is your review of AIBI??

Suresh Kumar said...

anon: I like AIBI soundtrack very much. A very different one for a tamil film. Yuvan matures with each and every album. Will write a review on it soon.

CSR said...

Hi Suresh & All,

Long back, (during his emerging days with WCM), I read the interview of LVS, stating that his reason for learning WCM was due to IR as he was so attracted by IR's fusion music in films.

Even though LVS was such an accomplished Carnatic player by then, he found it so difficult and at the same time very much rewarding to learn WCM and write those grade exams.

But my personal opinion is, IR is the only one and remain the sole authority in making "Fusion" as it should be with WCM & CCM, while every others to some extent could only either tried or succeeded to some extent in making a "mixture". That's purely my personal opinion.

Suresh Kumar said...


Ofcourse, he is only one who has done the fusion of indian classical, western classical, folk, jazz and lot more. But for that fact, we cannot completely ignore the attempts of others. I do am a crazy fan of IR music. I think my post is misleading, it was not intended to be against IR.

vijay said...

Suresh,LS has been around a long time man. Its sad that even personalities like him are being taken notice of by us only when they do something related to films.

You might also want to check out Resonance by V.S. Narasimhan and Madras String quartet.

Suresh Kumar said...

Hi Vijay,
Not knowing LS is actually my fault. I was not much into classical music those days.
I have heard about the album "Resonance" . V.Narashiman is one the one who played violin for "How To Name It". Right? I have searched the music stores, but it is not available. Could you tell me where can i find this album.

krishnakumar said...

Haven't heard this one yet. I am a huge fan of LS's carnatic violin pieces, but equally averse to his so-called "fusion" music. Some pieces of his compositions are great to hear, and that is when he plays a solo piece in free-style. His "fusion" music, I would argue, can be understood as a mixture of indian and western classical, not a seemless blend. IR's fusion atempts on the other hand are immenseley successful in seamlessly blending the two genres. Here to the piece in Kalyani or MayaMalwaGowla (Thulasidala) in How to Name It. It is hard to see sometimes where carnatic music ends and where western begins...it is soo well blended. That is not the case with fusion music produced by LS or even Pdt Ravi Shankar. I think LS & Ravi Shankar are gods, exponents & what not of solo/duet performances. But I wouldn't say they are ingenious "composers" or "orchestrators".