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HindustanTimes Wed,30 Jul 2014

Beethoven among the birds

Indrajit Hazra, Hindustan Times   September 08, 2013
First Published: 00:28 IST(8/9/2013) | Last Updated: 03:04 IST(8/9/2013)

There's an astounding beauty to listening to Beethoven with birdsong in the background which the world needed to know about. After Zubin Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra's performance at Srinagar's Shalimar Bagh, it now does.

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In the evening at Kashmir's most famous public garden, the iconic short-short-short-long opening notes of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 leapt into something that the German composer would have approved of: a fiery, demonic lust for life.

And even as Mehta, with his eyes closed, guided the second movement with its gentle middle creeping up to its crescendo, the birds joined in perfect conjunction. It was nothing short of magic.

The evening started with Beethoven, Mehta having carefully picked Leonore Overture No. 3 from the German composer's only opera, Fidelio, with its theme of abuse of power and individual courage for the sake of liberty.

The notes, vigorous and taking wing, sounded superb as they were carried by 120 microphones with a standing ovation-demanding sound quality that Doordarshan delivered across the country and the world. If there was more than the rousing music in Mehta's choice of play, it didn't matter.

For those listening, the music transcended opinions, never mind disputes.

The third movement of Joseph Hayden's Trumpet Concerto In E Flat Major followed. The piece made famous by the likes of jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, had soloist Andreas Ottl speaking through his trumpet in the cyclical rondo form with the orchestra joining in as conversation.

Mehta not so much conducted the musicians on the stage as much as liberated them in the Srinagar outdoors. Nothing underlined this more during the whole evening than Lithuanian-born violinist Julian Rachlin burning the September air with his solo in the third movement of Russian master Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major.

Playing the finale in a furious pace that this technically-difficult piece demands, the sight and sound of Rachlin in the evening light was palpable even to those not part of the 2,000-odd audience attending the concert.

As he flung himself back to hurl the last note, only the growing 'allegro vivacissimo' of the birds remained along with the after-shock of rapture.

If the climax came in Beethoven's 5th, the encores of two polkas - the first being Johann Strauss' Thunder and Lightning, followed by a successful melding of Kashmiri music conducted by Abhay Rustom Sopori and Mehta's orchestra - brought the glorious evening to an end.

That is, if one doesn't count the music of the birds of Shalimar who continued to perform well into the dying of the light.


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