The Symphony Orchestra of India is hosting its 10th anniversary celebrations this month and there will be a gala celebration at the end of it all. Pearl Mathias & Anindra Siqueira tell you what to expect from the increasingly popular event this year
You may or may not know that the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) was founded 10 years ago, and this year, the NCPA is throwing a huge gala to mark the joyous occasion of the orchestra having performed for a decade, which is no mean feat. They’ve got renowned musicians from across the world on board, and even have the youngest ever soloist to be featured in an SOI season — 12-year-old piano prodigy Sanzharali Kopbayev. We spoke with a few people who have been the driving force behind the SOI, and while the 10th anniversary celebrations have already begun, here’s what you should know.
We spoke with NCPA chairman, Khushroo N. Suntook, who tells us how the SOI came to be. As it turns out, Khushroo got in touch with Marat Bisengaliev, the orchestra’s music director — a violinist and conductor with both the West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Turan Alem Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra — while he was performing in London. Khushroo was so impressed by his work that he immediately went backstage and invited him to India.
The idea was to put together a brilliant orchestra on the condition that Indians would also be part of it. And, that’s when the struggle began. Recruiting people to be part of this group wasn’t easy, but they finally managed to put it together without compromising on the quality of the music, Khushroo explains. “The function of the orchestra is always the same. The orchestra is a machine of emotions,” Zane Dalal, SOI’s associate music director tells us.
On September 22, Zane will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major. “Since this year marks the 10th anniversary, we’ve assembled the best performers to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, which is quite a difficult piece. Getting 100 people to co-ordinate and work on the exact same thing is, in a way, pretty marvelous,” Zane says.
What to expect
Zane tells us, “The piece is difficult to play, but it’s one of my favourites. The grand arch is over 50 minutes long, so the entire team needs to be at the top of their game for this one.” In terms of imagery, the symphony draws from Mahler’s childhood experiences. Zane says, “During his morning walk to school, he would pass by the church and take in the choir belting out Catholic tunes. Then he would walk past the synagogue and take in the cantours. When he passed the inns, he heard the gypsies making music in their taverns. He also listened to the parade music of the military groups in his town. His symphony is a synopsis of all the music he was exposed to as a child and this inspired him to create this masterpiece.”
THE ENIGMA VARIATIONS
SOI music director Marat Bisengaliev will be leading the orchestra in Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma’), Op. 36, also called the Enigma Variations, on September 27. He chose Elgar because he’s deeply touched by his work and feels a personal connection to it, and because he enjoys the music while playing it.
What to expect
Marat tells us that he thoroughly researched Elgar’s work by travelling to his town, living there, talking to his relatives, reading all his work and even riding a bicycle to all the places he went. The Secrets in Cipher — a collection of four articles from The Pall Mall Gazette published in 1896 — were inspired by the heights of the hills. And although Marat tells us that he tried looking for them, he couldn’t really find it, although he did hum a sweet little tune to explain. You can expect not only the anthologies, but also a collection of reconstructed work.
Zane tells us how they settled on 12-year-old Sanzharali Kopbayev. He says, “In the process of assembling the crew, we had to keep in mind Indian soundscape and music, which is quite different from the west. So, along with Indian artists, we set out to create the future of this orchestra in India by scouting for younger talent as well. But, given that we don’t have post graduate courses in this field, it was pretty difficult to come across gifted players. So, when I met Sanzharali during his wonderful performance in Kazakhstan in 2014, I was so taken aback by his work that I asked him to join the SOI this year. Having set up a music school, I felt that watching this 12-year-old play the concerto as part of such a huge group would definitely inspire my students to work harder and reach new levels.”
Khushroo also tells us that on the day of the gala (September 30), they won’t be showcasing any major work; they’ll focus on having a fun time on stage and presenting that merriment to the audience.
What to expect
Be prepared. They plan to end with a Waltz for a change. “I don’t know how large the cake will be, but there’ll surely be enough of it for everyone,” Khushroo tells us light-heartedly.
Wagner: Prelude and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser
Holst: The Planets, Op. 32
Humperdinck: Excerpts from Hansel and Gretel
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major
Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre
Grieg: Piano Concerto, Op. 16
Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme
Bernstein: Candide Overture
Shostakovich: Festive Overture
Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 2
J. Strauss Jr.: Artists’ Life, Blue Danube Waltzes and more