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Take a bow

TN Krishnan was part of a trio of instrumentalists who carved out a special niche for the violin in Carnatic music

By: Editorial | November 4, 2020 3:30:46 am
TN Krishnan left this world, aged 91, on Monday.

The violin entered the world of Carnatic music less than 200 years ago. If this Western musical instrument has since become an integral part of this essentially South Indian tradition of Indian classical music, some of the credit goes to Tripunithura Narayanaiyer Krishnan. Along with Lalgudi Jayaraman and MS Gopalakrishnan, he was instrumental in making the violin an essential part of the Carnatic concert, and even establishing its identity as a lead instrument in concerts. Lalgudi and MSG passed away some years ago, TN Krishnan left this world, aged 91, on Monday.

This trio, of course, was carrying forward a tradition that had started with Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu and T Chowdiah, who had won over music aficionados with their brilliance in the early part of 20th century. Dwaram, in fact, was a pioneer in organising Carnatic violin concerts. Until then, only the nagaswaram and veena commanded the role of lead instruments in concerts. In fact, the popularity of the violin may have pushed these two legacy instruments into the background — the violin was introduced into the Carnatic music sphere by Baluswamy Dikshitar in the 19th century. But in no time, the violin was adapted to meet the rigours of the Carnatic raga-tala system and it became the most cherished accompaniment for vocalists, who, by then, had started to dominate the concert stage. Lalgudi, Krishnan and MSG made their mark by accompanying the great masters of their time, of course, but they also developed distinct styles to establish themselves as solo artists.

In Krishnan’s case, after initiation into music under his father at the age of four, he started to accompany stalwarts of the time — Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, MD Ramanathan, and so on — from the age of 12. He also found time to teach in the formal university system while doing concerts. He leaves behind a rich treasury of concert music, distinguished for its musical depth and great tonal quality.

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