July 2019 marks the birth centenary of one of the greatest patrons of Western classical music, one whose influence and name became known, respected and deeply admired, far beyond his own realm, the Kingdom of Mysore. This was Maharaja Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar, last ruler of that princely state. It is therefore, only fitting, that tribute was paid to him in the form of performances by India’s First and only professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI).
Also fitting is that among the works on the programme performed was one by Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951), a much underestimated 20th century Russian composer, who was given his due thanks to the generosity of the Maharaja. In return, Medtner dedicated his Third Piano Concerto to his royal benefactor.
There are landmark events and institutions that owe much to Wadiyar, who was as discerning and knowledgeable as he was generous: the putting of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London on a stable financial footing for one, the performance of Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs
, exactly in keeping with the composer’s last wish, down to the choice of soprano Kirsten Flagstad, for another.
A brilliant musician himself, Wadiyar would have chosen to be a concert pianist, had fate not decreed that he be a king. But he nurtured his passion all his life, and gave to European art music, not his own talent, but the chance for the genius of others to find public acknowledgement. Even those who never met him, like the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan, lauded his choice of works to be performed and recorded (another ‘first’) such as Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta
In his palace in Mysore, recounted EMI’s Sir Walter Legge, the Maharaja had his encyclopaedic record collection, state-of-art sound systems and grand pianos.
The magnificent Durbar hall, on this occasion, as well as the Wadiyar palace in Bangalore, were the concert venues. Here, the SOI, with its Music Director, Marat Bisengaliev, presented a programme that reflected Wadiyar’s own eclectic aesthetic: ranging from Mozart and Albeniz to Milstein and Jenkins. The Medtner, of course, was of special interest. The orchestra conclude the programme with an arrangement of the Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' as a special request from the Wadiyar family, National Centre for the Performing Arts Chairman, Khushroo N Suntook, who knew the Maharaja was present, as were members of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, and many eminent names from all industries, all came to hear fine music, and to honour a man who gave so much to the art.
Mysore Palace - 18th July 2019
Bengaluru Palace - 20th July 2019