Amid delayed flights, frayed nerves, lack of clarity about the arrival of musical instruments and the news of a kidnapping, there was music, a lot of it—soul stirring, soothing, serenading— almost other-worldly. For the three days (15-17 December), music lovers were not only exposed to the greatest classical guitarists at the Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival (CICGF), but more than a hundred students also ensured that the future of this genre of music will evolve by taking lessons in classical guitar from the likes of Pavel Steidl and Marcin Dylla, the artistes who feature in the list of the top five classical guitarists of the world. The music lovers received a rare treat from Pavel, who also played the rare romantic guitar. Pavel’s instrument is based on a guitar that belonged to the 19th century guitarist Luigi Legnani. The romantic guitar is a slightly smaller instrument – like a parlour guitar — and can be dismantled. You can take the strings off, and then the neck is unscrewed.
The excitement was palpable on the very first day at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) building, opposite the high security American Consulate. At 9 pm in the morning, all five rooms of the conference centre at the top floor were occupied by students who had come from all corners of the country to get lessons from the masters. Lessons went on in all the rooms simultaneously; those who opted for individual lessons from the maestros were handpicked by Aakash Saha, one of the founders of the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society, based on the music recordings they submitted.
The day before, on 14 December, after the Spanish Guitar Competition was held for the junior and senior categories, recitals were given by young winners. Anubhav Dasgupta, the winner of last year’s Junior Spanish Guitar Competition, performed a short recital for Kabir Dabholkar (winner of the Young Musician Of the Year award, 2017), who was there to get lessons from his favourite master Pavel Steidl. The integration of students in this manner helps prepare artistes of repute for future in the genre of classical guitar music, which remains limited to a niche group of people.
The evening concerts on 15 December began with the traditional lighting of the lamp. Once Marcin Dylla picked up his guitar to play music from the classical period and began with Mauro Guiliani’s sonata, the filled auditorium did not even hear any sound other than the music which was made of fantasy. The captivating 'Nocturnal' by Benjamin Britten moved freely, taking the audience along in its flight of imagination — a surrealistic dream journey that took the audience through the experience of a nightmare concluding with a peaceful dawn. It is regarded as one of the finest works ever written for the classical guitar. Marcin spoke about how 'Nocturnal', which was written for legendary guitarist Julian Bream, explores the concept of sleep and dreams.
Marcin’s concert was followed by the French trio, Le Maestrio, which played a unique mix of gypsy jazz, flamenco and Brazilian guitar. They treated the audience with many famous catchy tunes, including Mozart’s 25th Symphony. The fusion of sounds created by the trio, even though each one’s guitar had a distinct sound of its own, was a never-heard-before experience for the music lovers of Kolkata. The audience included 170 children, most of them children of sex workers from the red light areas of Kolkata. Their tickets were sponsored by a local NGO, which enabled them to experience this music.
During the day, on 16 December, performances were organised by the schools of music from Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Darjeeling. Each student was given 5 minutes to present their music. Three artistes were slated for the evening concert. Paco Renteria, the star guitarist from Mexico, who couldn't come to Jodhpur RIFF in October due to the floods in his country, was once again unable to leave the country due to “stress”, because his father had been kidnapped.
A professor at Madrid Conservatory, Miguel Trapaga, whose trip to India was sponsored by the Embassy of Spain, delighted the audience with written Spanish music from 17th to 20th century. True to the flavour of Spanish music, it was warm and melodious, presenting true Spanish classical guitar sounds. Johannes Moller is not new to CICGF; he has been performing in Kolkata since the first chapter of the festival and enjoys the kind of audience connect that only pop musicians have. He presented a mix of his own music as well as recognised classical guitar hits without sticking to the formal structure of a classical concert. About half way through the concert, there were people shouting out requests and Johannes responded by saying that he would be playing 'Night Flame', as well as new pieces from his new album China (based on Chinese traditional and folk music). Johannes continued playing for an extra half hour, on audience demand.
The concluding day was the day of Pavel Steidl, whose distinct musical sounds stand apart in the crowded aural experience of the times. During the day, an ensemble concert by the Nagaland Conservatory of Music presented pieces originally written for guitar quartet, as well as the orchestra score for the guitar. Steidl, the guitarist-performer, whose entire body sways with the music and whose face comes alive with expressions, moved the audience with the endearing sounds of his guitar. His concert was unique; it included a combination of classical guitar music. A suite of songs by Jan Antonin Losy Count of Losinthal, followed by Niccolo Paganini and Luigi Legnani. Legnani and Paganini were friends and both played the violin and the guitar. The way Pavel Steidl arranged the pieces — one short piece by Paganini followed by another one by Legnani — sounded as though the composers were in dialogue with one another. The last piece of music played was classical — Carlo Domeniconi's 'Steidleriana'— but also had overtone singing, and tapping of the guitar and the performer’s body.
The festival concluded on a lighter note, when the trio of Mohan Veena exponent Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, jazz guitarist Amyt Datta and Pt Subhen Chatterjee's Karma produced sounds of a different texture with jazz guitar, bass and drums. It was loud and lasted till 10 pm, much beyond the scheduled time. All concerts were sold out, despite the fact there were other concerts by the greats of Indian music in the city. The Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival has grown solely because of word of mouth, and the music played here plays to the soul, not the gallery.
Updated Date: Dec 26, 2017 13:52:38 IST