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Updates from the 2011 Artistic DirectorElisabeth EastherSchools Review CompetitionReviews
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NZ Herald Review: Spirit of India - Shehnai & Flute

By - 17 Mar 2011
"Rajendra Prasanna comes from generations of Indian master musicians. On Tuesday, thanks to him and his three colleagues, a rapt audience fell under the spell of a music in which time itself seemed almost to stand still."

By William Dart
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"The first half of the concert featured Prasanna and his son Rishab on flutes, playing with a sighing delicacy not so far from what we might expect for Corelli or Vivaldi.

Long-breathed phrases took our breath away but not that of the players and the occasional admission of a very Western third in the men's harmonies provoked a smile, later enchantment came from playful musical duelling between father and son, and an exhilarating final rush when piccolo-sized flute piped up over a veritable storm of tabla.

23-year-old Shubh Maharaj, a musician with his own impressive lineage, effortlessly laid out complex tabla rhythms. Timbres seemed to dance under his fingers; here was a master of illusion who almost had toes tapping to music that, because of intricate rhythms, was hardly intended for such a response.

All this fitted in with the sometimes sly humour of Prasanna senior, whether through his witty turn of musical phrase or, introducing the final offering, describing the voluptuousness of a piece inspired by Krishna.

After interval, Prasanna drew vociferous applause for a powerfully sustained note on the shehnai, a raw, blisteringly beautiful relative of the oboe. In brilliant solo flights, he reminded me of the inspired outpourings of jazzman, John Coltrane.

Prasanna was now joined by Vikas Babu, a low-key presence on tambura to this point, but adding his shehnai for some ecstatic duetting.

This enterprising presentation deserved more of an audience and we were told so, good-humouredly, by Mohindar Dhillon of the Nataraj Cultural Centre, who also lamented the Indian community's obsession with the titillation of Bollywood.

It was a certainly a superb introduction for the Auckand Arts Festival's ongoing series of exotic concerts this week. Thursday's O Cambodia, with the music of Jack Body, Gillian Whitehead, Chinary Ung and Him Sophy, played by the NZTrio and the Cambodian Tray So ensemble should be high priority."


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