Gaurav Mazumdar (sitar) & Sonjuhi Priyadarshani (singer) Purcell Room, SBC, 2 July 2000 (MB)
This Indian concert, sponsored by the Academy of Performing Arts, of which I attended the lengthy first half only, proved to be an unmissable evening. The sitar player, Gaurav Mazumdar, was for me the star. The virtuosity of his playing was thrown off with a mercurial, quicksilver panache. Mazumdar seduces the ear with the pure tone he draws from his instrument, and, as a result, he tempts us into a spiritual underworld of spun melody and evocative phrasing which is literally mesmerising. The two pieces he played were each as long as a Haydn symphony, but their length, and the concentration it required from the audience, didn't seem to matter. His artistry is of such a magnitude, it just rivets the attention. For a newcomer to Indian music, this was a spellbinding occasion.
The singer Sonjuhi Priyadarshani has a scintillating voice. Her three songs, again of some length, took us on a threnetic journey into a forbidden world. There is a darkness and depth to her voice which suited the prayer-like cadences that emerged, and hovered like mist over the hall. The beauty of her singing may not immediately be apparent - but it becomes so the more one listens and becomes used to its quality. Priyadarshani's voice possibly lacked genuine pathos because of the enhanced sound from speakers, but in general the level of amplification (previously a source of complaint from S&H) was on this occasion relatively modest and I found it acceptable.
The lack of programme notes makes it hard for newcomers to this music to find their bearings; for many Westerners, its idioms are still unfamiliar and strange. I also found it disconcerting and distracting that people came in very late. Despite this, however, the evening remained a memorable event.
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