Chiragh Concert Videos

April 26, 2019 | Tata Theatre, NCPA Mumbai

Invocation — Maitreem Bhajata

Words by Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati (1894-1994), music by Vasant Desai (1912-1975), arranged by Edwin Rajkumar (b. 1964) The programme begins with this prayer in Sanskrit made famous by M.S. Subbalakshmi’s rendition at the United Nations in 1966. The words are a clarion call to let friendship resound among all the peoples of the world; to renounce war, aggression and competition; and to honour Mother Earth. The ethical responsibilities of “Daamyata Datta Dayadhvam” (restraint, generosity and compassion), taken from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, were cited by T.S. Eliot in his poem “The Wasteland” where the thunder announces these three, holding out the promise of rain.

Hamsafar: A Musical Journey Through South Asia

Lauren Braithwaite (b. 1990)
Hamsafar: A Musical Journey through South Asia
Commissioned by Classical Movements’ Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program for the South Asian Symphony Orchestra Born in Epsom, U.K., Lauren Braithwaite has worked and studied for many years in both music education and musicology. In 2016, she joined the Afghanistan National Institute of Music as woodwind faculty and in March 2017, became Artistic Director and co-conductor of the Zohra Women’s Orchestra. Prior to this, Lauren worked as a music educator at the Murray Conservatorium in Albury, Australia. Lauren holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge, where she was a choral scholar of Magdalene College Chapel Choir, and a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford. In 2013, she completed her Associate Diploma in Instrumental/Vocal Teaching with Trinity College, London. “Hamsafar” sews together a tapestry of traditional and popular musical works from seven countries in the region, simultaneously celebrating their shared characteristics whilst also highlighting the unique melodies, rhythms, and modes of each country. With the exception of “Ta Zee Ling”, a song from Bhutan, all the pieces possess lyrics drawn from national poetry. Beginning in Sri Lanka, the suite opens with the melancholic melody of “Aiyandiye” emerging from a solo cello and later echoed by a solo oboe. “Allah megh de pani de” — ‘Oh God give us cloud, give us water’ — is a well-known Bengali folk song which, despite its major key and upbeat rhythms, is a plea for rain in a parched land. Drops of rain finally come before the musical traveller continues on to Nepal, India, and Afghanistan to hear stories of human love: “Euta Manche Ko” describes the difference a person’s love can make to one’s life; the words of”Mera Joota Hai Japani” declare that, despite my clothes being from other countries, my heart is always Indian; and Afghanistan’s “Arsala Khan” tells the story of a young lady crying out because her family will not allow her to marry the song’s namesake. The suite ends with “Lal Meri Pat Rakhiyo”, the words of which were penned by the poet Amir Khusrow in honour of the Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. The driving rhythm and melody come together in tutti to bring the ebb and flow of the suite to a powerful climax.

Egmont Overture

The paradigm of the post-revolutionary artist, Beethoven’s life was the model for the idea of the solitary composer who, against all odds, gives his message to the world. Born in Bonn, he moved to Vienna at the age of 21 and was soon feted as a virtuoso pianist, but his compositions drew interest from far beyond the city, leading, as they did, the transition from the Classical style of Mozart and Haydn to the Romantic style of Berlioz, Schumann and Liszt. The onset of his deafness in his twenties both alienated him from the world at large and spurred him on to challenge his fate through his music. His death, at the age of 56 was a day of mourning in Vienna with tens of thousands of onlookers lining the funeral procession.
The first of ten pieces ostensibly written as incidental music for Goethe’s eponymous play, the Egmont Overture is often regarded as the composer’s personal response to the Napoleonic wars. Following on from Beethoven’s fury when Napoleon declared himself emperor, and his subsequent decision to excise his name from the dedication of the Eroica Symphony in 1804, this overture appears to be a heartfelt expression of freedom vanquishing oppression. Thus, telling the story of Count Egmont, it is certainly not too fanciful to imagine that the strings and brass interjections represent his arrest and trial, whilst the pleading wind phrases personify the pleas of his wife and children. Gradually the tension heightens, landing on a pinpoint phrase in unison in the strings followed by a sudden silence and a hymn — clearly our protagonist has been executed. Thereafter, Beethoven releases some of his most elemental music. Written in 1810 at the end of Beethoven’s ‘middle period’ of creativity, he demonstrates his total command of the orchestra in an overwhelming finale showing us, and perhaps Napoleon, that the Count’s spirit and struggle lives on in freedom.

Song to the Moon from Rusalka

Antonín Dvořák was one of the first Czech composers to attain international recognition, with works performed and published throughout Europe. Furthermore, he was invited to be the director of the National Conservatory of Music in America, where he lived for three years and wrote his New World Symphony. Passionate about writing operas, all of his mature works in the genre have Czech libretti and attempt to portray a national spirit. As such, alongside Grieg, Mussorgsky, Parry and Albeniz, he helped to establish Nationalism as an important component of Romanticism in the last years of the 19th century. One of the most successful of all Czech operas, Dvotak’s beautiful telling of the fairy tale of Rusalka, the water nymph, has a timeless quality which pervades the music. The “Song to the Moon” occurs in the first act where Rusalka, who has fallen in love with a human prince and yearns to be human herself, implores the moon to reveal her love to her mortal beloved. With its simple lines, quiet accompaniment and prominent harp, the music forms part of an age-old tradition of the night-piece.

Sous le feuillage sombre from Lalla Roukh

Felicien-Cesar David (1810-1876), although orphaned at the age of five and impoverished, David managed to rise through the ranks of French musical life to become a member of the Legion d’Honneur, and, upon the death of Berlioz, a member of the prestigious Institut de France. His music is largely unknown today, but, still in his twenties he was acclaimed by the Paris Revue et Gazette Musicale who stated that “A great composer has been born among us”. Feted for his vocal music, he was particularly interested in ‘exotic’ themes for his operas which, in addition to Kashmir and Samarkand, were also set in locations as disparate as Brazil and ancient Herculaneum.