The music of Southern India is in many ways just as interesting as that, better known to Western audiences, of the North. Among its most renowned exponents are the Lalgudi family, as anyone who has heard their last CD Singing Violins (fy 8094) will undoubtedly testify, a recording that saw Lalgudi G Jayaraman reunited with his children LALGUDI GJR KRISHNAN and LALGUDI J VIJAYALAKSHMI in an exceptional violin trio. The new CD features LALGUDI GJR KRISHNAN and his sister LALGUDI J VIJAYALAKSHMI. On Bow to the Violins we hear the very essence Carnatic music, beginning with two tracks from the repertoire of Thyagaraja (1767-1847), a figure who in Southern India still inspires an almost saint-like reverence. Remarkable is the delicacy and refinement with which the Lalgudi duo rework his tapestries to draw out their subtle colours and timbral shadings, as is the steady rhythmic accompaniment provided by two highly accomplished percussionists, AS Shankar on ghatam and MV Chandler Shekar on mridangam. The music that explodes from Bow to the Violins is vibrant without being excessively showy and the Lalgudi duo are often highly inventive in the way they tackle tracks whose relatively short duration demands exceptional levels of concentration. While the Lalgudi siblings’ playing occasionally interpenetrates to the degree that it seems the work of a single musician, they also provide moments of contrast that only serve to underline even more clearly the beauty of the music they are making. It should also be mentioned that LALGUDI GJR KRISHNAN has on many occasions also played with artists from Northern India in a practice known as jugalbandi which has helped him hone his duetting skills to a fine edge.
A true masterpiece. Starting with the scintillating Nalinakanthi Varnam (look for the short but potent Aalapanai), the duo go on to greater heights with their soulful rendering of Siddhi Vinayakam. A rare krithi in the Raaga Manoranjani, Atukaaraadani, is followed by Maati Maatiki in Mohanam. Being part of the Thyagaraja school of music, they show their mastery over the nuances of the saahityam. The Bhajan in Bageshri is new and would do the listeners good if they were to have a copy of the lyrics in front of them. The Behag Thillana has been a popular ending to many Lalgudi concerts. Viji and Krishnan add their own pinch of spice and flavor to it. It would seem impossible to outdo the great Lalgudi Jayaraman but his kids come very close to doing just that. The tonal differences in their violins coupled with one playing in the higher octave and the other in the lower, but yet perfectly synchronized, make for a very soothing experience for one's ears and mind.