How excited are you as another season of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) gets underway?
Extremely excited. The SOI is flourishing in its 14th season and, for an orchestra that was started a mere six years ago, is fulfilling its promise of excellent performances for Mumbai audiences. At the same time, the SOI is not afraid to tackle major scores from the late romantic period and early 20th century, including Richard Strauss, Puccini and Mahler. Our seasons have gone from strength to strength, not just in terms of expanding the repertoire, but also through developing the core of our sound.
What can Western music aficionados expect from these concerts?
The repertoire for the SOI’s forthcoming 14th season in February 2013 offers four varied concerts ranging from an all-Beethoven programme to the Indian premiere of a triple concerto by the World Music/Jazz trio of Béla Fleck (banjo), Edgar Meyer (double bass) and Zakir Hussain (tabla). The SOI once again charts new territory with its collaboration with Indian music, Jazz and Bluegrass with Melody of Rhythm. This season also presents great artistes like Benjamin Frith and Marat Bisengaliev. The involvement of Zakir Hussain — one of the leading exponents of Hindustani classical music, who enjoys a huge following in India — should mean that the orchestra is well positioned to forge a relationship with a new audience, and this can only be a positive thing.
Have there been, if any, special arrangements at NCPA for these big-ticket events, as far as infrastructure, technology or acoustics?
There is no need to pursue any special arrangements at the NCPA for such a concert, in terms of acoustics, because whatever sound may be amplified for the trio of soloists, will be done so for very careful ambient dimensions that are present — and not for harsh projection. The intimacy of the live sonic experience should never be distorted. We will be joined by a recording engineer who presided over the recording of the same piece with the Detroit Symphony, so we are in good hands.
You will be conducting all of the concerts; what does this mean for you?
It is a wonderful thing, not just because I have been able to choose wonderful repertoire, and work closely with this fine orchestra to achieve it my way - but also, because I feel emotionally very supported by the orchestral players and of course the NCPA — the umbrella organisation that makes the SOI possible. I feel I have come home!
Could you throw some light on SOI's scheduled concert at Muscat’s Royal Opera House?
The concert in Muscat at their very fine new Royal Opera House is a terrific way to end the season. It is always good for an orchestra to have an opportunity to tour, to show their talent. We will repeat the concert of the 22nd on the 25th in Muscat and then the concert of the 26th will reprise a performance of Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5 before the interval. SOI will be able to present itself in each first half independently of the Hussain, Fleck and the Meyer trio, who will be the anchor points after the interval in each concert. We very much look forward to playing for our new neighbour friends in Muscat.
How did this collaboration with Ustad Zakir Hussain come about?
The collaboration between Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer is one that spans over 26 years. In 2004 when asked by the Nashville symphony to commission a Triple concerto, both of them instinctively turned to Zakir Hussain to fill the gap. The Melody of Rhythm is the result of that joining together and is a testament to three master musicians pushing the boundaries of their own playing, and their own understanding of the music around them.
To play alongside them and make music with them through the orchestra will be a highlight for many musicians on the platform. The NCPA is proud of its continuing support of Indian musicians through the AIMG (All India Musicians’ Group) and over the course of our short history at the SOI, it is only right that this opportunity to present the great Zakir Hussain should