The Orchestra Man
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Zane Dalal, resident conductor of India's first professional symphony orchestra, talks about the presence of western tradition in Indian culture.
At the very outset of the conversation, Zane Dalal, resident conductor of Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), attempts to explain the essence of the orchestra and how it is fundamentally different from Indian classical music. While the latter shines in scope for improvisation, driven by artistic will and impulse, the glory of western classical music lies elsewhere. "The beauty and joy lies in making music sound as close as possible to those exact, precise notations of previous works, sometimes as old as Beethoven's," he says.
The September concert season of the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) and SOI, a biannual event — this time in commemoration of 60 years of Indo-German diplomacy — in association with the Goethe Institut and the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, opened on September 20 at the Homi Bhabha Theatre at the NCPA. It is to be followed by performances on September 25 and September 30. The repertoire being featured are naturally those of the great German masters such as Ludwig Van Beethoven, Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler. Noted German conductor Christopher Poppen and Zane Dalal will conduct the performances, which will also feature violinist Lena Neudauer and baritone Anooshah Golesorkhi.
The SOI, founded in 2006 (by NCPA Chairman Khusroo N Suntook and international violinist Marat Bisengaliev) as part of NCPA's western music ambitions in the country, is India's first professional symphony orchestra. And since the year of its inception, Dalal has been the organisation's resident conductor, someone who has brought in his vast experience of working with the best in the US. The presence of just eight Indians in a nearly 100-piece orchestra, he says, is driven by sheer professionalism.
"We can only take people who are good enough, and honestly, very few made the cut," he says. The reasons, according to him, are not just the lack of western music education in the country, but also the youth's dwindling attention spans triggered by digital revolution.
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