Violinist Dr. Mysore Manjunath performs at Oxford University

Violinist Dr. Mysore Manjunath performs at Oxford University

May 30, 2018

By Alice Barron, violinist, BA (Hons) LRAM MMus

It was a pleasure to welcome Dr. Mysore Manjunath to Oxford to perform in Europe’s oldest purpose-built concert hall, the Holywell Music Hall. This special building first opened in 1748 in the centre of the University City of Oxford, and has hosted prestigious musicians including the Baroque composer George Frideric Handel in the late eighteenth century.

Bringing Karnatak classical violin music into this beautiful hall for the first time was a very memorable and magnificent evening. It was an intimate, moving and virtuosic performance that was received with a standing ovation.

The evening began with a pre-concert talk, a discussion between myself (a professional violinist and research scholar) and Dr. Mysore Manjunath where we explored the role of the violin in Karnatak classical music today. We delved into the extraordinary musical education that has brought the Mysore Brothers (Mysore Nagaraj and Dr. Mysore Manjunath) to international acclaim.

Along with providing the context of the Karnatak violin for a UK audience, it was fascinating to hear personal stories about the distinctive style of playing and a glimpse into Dr. Manjunath’s teaching and performance practices.

The concert began as the early summer sunlight gradually faded and the performers began to play on the red and gold lit stage.  Accompanying Dr. Mysore Manjunath was Bengaluru’s renowned Arjun Kumar on mridanga and R. N. Prakash, who is the leading ghatam player in the UK.  

The concert opened with the most exquisite ālap by Dr. Manjunath in Rāga Nasikabhushani; with elaborate gamakas leading to occasional sustained pitches that decorated the outline of the rāga in a way that captivated the entire audience. Bridging old and new, the concert traversed the eighteenth century compositions of Saint Thyagaraja with boundary-breaking string crossing techniques that are more commonly found in Western classical violin playing.

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One highlight was the Rāgam Tanam Pallavi that moved between the two requested rāgas of Mohana and Vakulabharanam, with outstanding improvisations from all the musicians.  As part of the Faculty of Music’s Sounds of South Asia Series, this ground-breaking concert demonstrated how Dr. Manjunath is paving the way for the next generation of Karnatak violinists as well as many musicians around the globe. This was the first Karnatak concert in the series and provided an engaging combination of tradition and contemporary approaches to Karnatak music.

As a highly acclaimed international performer and music scholar, Dr. Manjunath was the ideal musician to bring the Karnatak tradition to the University of Oxford. We all hope that these musicians will return to the UK again very soon.



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