LSM-ONLINE-LOGO2JPG.jpg (4855 bytes)

Back Issues
LSM Issues
LSV Issues
Throat Doctor
Concert Reviews
CD Critics
Books Reviews
PDF Files

About LSM
LSM News
Guest Book
Contact Us
Site Search
Web Search

The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

Onto the sub-continent

By Norman Lebrecht / December 7, 2006

Classical music has just planted its first footprint in the world’s second most populous nation. India, which has never shown much interest in sonata form and suchlike, now has a professional symphony orchestra and this week named a Kazakh violinist as its music director.

Marat Bisengaliev, 42, is an enterprising soloist who started winning competitions just as the Soviet Union was breaking up and seized his chance in his country’s oil-rich independence. Settling in London in 1991, Bisengaliev formed a home-based Kazakh Chamber Orchestra and two national symphony orchestras with which he has recorded, among other esoterica, the recent snooze music of former ad composer Karl Jenkins. Seven corporate megaliths jostle for sponsor credits at the foot of his website.

India, though, is Bisengaliev’s boldest venture. The new Symphony Orchestra of India is funded by the agrochemicals-to-telecomms Tata Group, which has built a sumptuous National Centre for the Performing Arts on the waterfront in Mumbai and needs a resident ensemble. The Indian government, says Bisengaliev, ‘shows no interest at all. But there is a middle class of 200 million people with a growing interest in western lifestyles. This is an incredible opportunity for classical music.’

Most of the new orchestra’s musicians are drawn from his Kazakh ensembles - ‘only nine Indians passed the audition to a standard we would recognise in London,’ – but Bisengaliev has established four Kazakh players in fulltime teaching posts and expects the orchestra to be fully indigenous before long.

Next September he is planning what may be the Indian premiere of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, while tempting sub-continent opera lovers with a fully-staged Pagliacci. If he manages to build a loyal following, the opportunities for record companies and visiting orchestras would appear to be limitless.

The only blip on this new beginning is the absence from the letterhead of Mumbai’s most famous musical son, Zubin Mehta, 70, a personal friend of the sponsoring group’s chairman, Ratan Tata. ‘It should have been Zubin who founded this orchestra, not me,’ admits Bisengaliev, ‘but he’s always too busy.’

To be notified of the next Lebrecht article, please email mikevincent at scena dot org

Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]


(c) La Scena Musicale 2001-2006