The violin was introduced to South India several hundred years ago—relatively recently in relation to the region’s musical culture. However, it has acquired considerable importance with this short space of time, gaining similar popularity to that of the vina or the nagaswaram, which have always held great prestige within the Carnatic tradition.
Baluswamy Dikshitar (1786 – 1859) is recognised as being the first artist to have adapted the violin to Indian music, introducing such peculiarities as playing it while seated and holding it in a different position to that traditionally assumed in the West, which were further developed by later masters. One of the greatest of these masters is undoubtedly Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, who was born in 1930 in the village of Lalgudi, in the central Tamil Nadu area. His family has produced several generations of great musicians. Lalgudi G. Jayaraman has followed in his forefather’s footsteps, teaching is art to numerous students, including his own sons, Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi J. Vijayalakshmi, who accompany him on this album, along with Vellore G. Ramabhadran (mridangam) and V. Nagaraj (kanjira). The repertory is largely based on compositions by one of the greatest Carnatic musicians of all time, Tyagaraja (1767 – 1847), worshipped like a saint in South India, being the author of over 600 kritis, a kind of hymn that contributes to achieving spiritual elevation. The Lalgudis are particularly appreciated for their ability to maintain a high level of concentration in their interpretations of the great composer’s works. Carnatic music contains raga that would normally not exceed 8 minutes and for this reason the player cannot stray in their improvisations (unlike north Indian music). Being obliged to say a lot in a short time, they are forced to express their art and sentiments in extremely brief passages. Without the freedom to express his creativity freely and flamboyantly, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman relies on elements such as colour and timbre to do this for him. Paradoxically, his personal approach to the violin, and his superb inventiveness, are exalted by the constraints of the music’s structure, which also serve to emphasise his incredible talent, a fact that is clearly apparent on this album.