A concert to remember

Jul 08, 2012, 11:34 IST | Moeena Halim

The Con Brio festival helps Indian musicians mingle with performers from all over the world. Not only does it include a series of concerts, but also hosts a competition to encouragelocal talent

When Parvesh Java started the Con Brio festival two years ago to celebrate German composer Robert Schumann’s birth bicentenary, he had no idea it would be such a success. Directing the festival for the third time, Java promises that this year has more in store for music lovers than ever before.

“There’s something for everyone,” he says, referring to the line-up he has planned over the coming week, till July 15. As always, it is a combination of concerts and a piano competition.

When Java approached Anthony Gomes from music store Furtados with the idea of the festival two years ago, Gomes was keen to sponsor the event. But he also wanted to include a competition for pianists in the country in memory of his father John Gomes. This year, the winner gets to take home an Essex Upright piano worth over Rs 5,30,000.

Soprano singer Patricia Rozario with Mark Troop on the piano

A pianist himself, Java has been inviting his teacher, Canadian pianist, Paul Stewart, to perform for the past three years. “It is tradition for him to kick off the festival. He is one of the most talented soloists out there,” reveals Java. Stewart will be performing solo at the opening ceremony of the festival today. This will also serve as a sort of orientation for the contestants. “There are seven contestants from across the country.

In June, Karl Lutchmayer (a fellow pianist) and I travelled to Pune, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai. Out of 30 pianists we have picked these seven semi-finalists,” he elaborates.

Pianist Paul Stewart perform at the Con Brio festival

Java is most excited about the evening of July 13. Celebrating legendary composer John Cage’s 100th birth anniversary, the concert will showcase a diverse and eclectic range of music styles. “Cage was highly influenced by Eastern philosophy, so it is fitting to have western classical music with an eastern twist. We’ll be playing Balinese music, Goan folk songs, Japanese music, stuff from East Russia — it’ll be a bit bizarre,” laughs Java. He will be performing during this concert too and promises that there’s going to be a surprise in store for the audience.

The concert on July 14 will be in honour of French composer Claude Debussy’s 150th birthday. The pieces being played will include Debussy’s rare, almost-never-performed pieces. Chelsea De Souza and Neville Bharucha, winners of Con Brio 2010 and 2011, will join two of the international pianists to perform at this concert. “This will be a quieter evening, something for the classical music lovers,” says Java.

The highlight of the festival is the concert on July 15. The evening will boast of a Concerto for four keyboards and string chamber orchestra. “I will be on stage too, playing one of the pianos. We’ll be playing a Bach piece that has never been played in India before,” explains Java excitedly. The finals of the competition will also be held on the 15th and the winner will be announced at the close of the evening.

“Con Brio, in Italian, stands for ‘with vigour’ or ‘with spirit’. It is a common musical term,” he explains. “The most important thing about this festival,” says Java, “is that it has a positive spirit and immense amount of support from the music fraternity.”

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