Sunday, 1 June 2008

'Rach 3'

I couldn't believe it! There in front of me, tucked away at the very end of the CD rack was Rachmaninov's Concerto No. 3 for Piano, the most formidable concerto composed, ever -- known by afficionados as the 'Rach 3.' Her impetuous face half-shrouded by her long hair, the lyrically beautiful eyes of Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich swept past me out of the CD cover. And in the double concerto she was accompanied by none other than Brazilian pianist Nelson Friere!

But this was hardly surprising. My nerve-'Rach'-ing experience was at the Landmark store off MG road, Pune, hours back and in the vicinity of which I am typing this post. I always come down to this store to scour their western classical music collection - to push my own musical boundaries further - and they always seem to have something for me everytime! After being weaned on Western Classical music in the hoary studios of AIR, Panjim, Goa as an announcer, one does get a sense of deja vu hearing Mozart's 40 today (Symphony Number 40). The same for all those frippery tunes - Vivaldi's Four Seasons included - put together for mass consumption.

What I look for now is something more cerebral. Something which moves me from within. Which is why, ensconced in my friend's spacious apartment in the early evening at Hermes Park, Bund Garden, Pune, I settled for the hauntingly beautiful 'Ase's Death' from Norweigian composer Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt suites. Interestingly, commenting on the obsession of Jonathan Phillip (43) to play the titanic Rach 3 - to restore some balance in his life - The Guardian went on to observe, 'Perhaps his is not a typical midlife crisis but more a reawakening of his core self' ('Ready for Rach 3,' May 16, 2003).

The last time I was down at Landmark in Pune I spirited away an elusive cache of the last 3 of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas -written over 30 years - played by Rudolf Serkin. Call it the ambience, call it the lazy easy feelin here at Landmark. For one, they are open on Sundays (Now why the staid Manneys bookshop next door doesn't understand this is beyond me) ; and two, the floor assistants are so unobtrusive.

I simpy had to pick up the spanking new edition of The Lady in Blue (1971) by Javier Sierra set in New Mexico. And I had just been reading a NatGeo article (the book not the channel) on ritual sacrifice in the Maya, Aztec cultures, more specifically at Chichen Itza in the Mayan city of Central Yucatan in Mexico. And Pune's restrauant was hosting 'Mexican Mischief' a Mexican food festival starting tomorrow. No guesses where I will be for dinner! The cartoon of the guy on the ad with the Mexican hat and and pepper? in the other really had me!

You guessed it. I love chilling out in Pune. Opening the month in a new place different from where I work, instilled an energy that roused me. True I had laboured down from Bombay last night in the Mahabus from Dadar which could only deposit me at Pune station at 10 pm. But Bombay is too frenetic. Pune is different. Dorabjee restaurant on Dastur Meher road welcomed me with a piping hot mutton biryani, though for Rs 100 I was yearning for some more of that biryani rice :( . Pune blends the old with the new --with its delicious vada-pavs (bread with stuffing of potato) by the kerb, and now its walking plaza at Main street on weekends. Gotta check it out now before it winds up. Excuse me guys!

-Brian Mendonça

Barrios plays
after an afternoon of love
Juan Chavez coffee
Pride of Columbia
Raiment of white muslin
Skirt transparent
‘Moliendo Café’
Só louco, só doido!

(11-12 November 2006
Sat-Sun, New Delhi)

Glossary: Barrios, Agustin (1885-1944): Classical guitarist and composer born in Paraguay; Juan Chavez: brandname on wrapper of coffee packet served after lunch at Ibero-American lunch, Embassy of Spain, New Delhi on Saturday 11 November 2006; Moliendo Café: composition by Juan Vicente Torrealba of Venezuela; So louco, so doido: (Portuguese) ‘Only madness, only pain’. The reflections of 63-year old Estamira, schizophrenic mother of three, from Estamira (Dir. Marcos Prado, 2004) screened at the Brazilian Documentary Film festival on 11 Nov 2008; Argerich: Martha Argerich (born 1941) Argentinian-born classical pianist. Muse and companion of Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire. From the documentary film Nelson Freire (Dir. Joao Moreira Salles, 2003) screened at the IHC on Sunday 12 November 2006, 8 p.m.

'Argerich' was published in A Hudson View - an international print poetry journal published from South Africa and New York (Skyline Publications, Dec 2007 - Mar 2008).

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