Maria Badstue conducted Johann Mathew's composition

Celebrating Talent

Even as marquee concerts and a full season unfold, the young brigade of the SOI and other initiatives by the orchestra continue to leave a mark.

Encore in Pune

In early August, 31 students from the SOI Academy Orchestra performed under the baton of SOI Music Director and violin virtuoso Marat Bisengaliev at The Poona Music Society. “The Mazda Hall was packed beyond capacity. It was a full programme of 1.5 hours with 16 pieces specially chosen and arranged for the children’s orchestra,” says Bisengaliev. In addition to classical repertoire, the programme included popular pieces like themes from Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones. “It is really rewarding to work with kids. Building something from scratch is special,” he says.

The concert received an overwhelming response. Priya Krishnan Das, illustrator and travel blogger, who was in the audience responded with her live sketches of the performance (in pic). Karl Daruwala, a teenager from Canada visiting family in India, said, “I have nothing but praise for the youth orchestra. If we closed our eyes, we wouldn’t have known that it was a youth orchestra—they were that good.” Renu Jamgaonkar, Cultural Coordinator, Goethe Institut, praised the orchestra for its choice of programme that resonates with young audiences, “It was a mesmerising experience as 31 young musicians enthralled the Pune audiences … The orchestra exhibits international standards of professionalism. Some of the youngest musicians (merely eight or nine years old) impressed the most. Kudos to the finest homegrown and nurtured talent!”

Mumbai’s Prodigy in Vienna

All of nine years, Ayaan Deshpande, a student of the SOI Music Academy, has stunned artistes and audiences alike with his musicality. Earlier this year, he was chosen as the Winner of the Golden Key of Vienna Music Festival, an annual summer festival held in the Austrian capital, which brings together musicians from around the world. After receiving his Winner’s Diploma and Medal in August, he performed at the Winners’ Gala Concert held at the majestic Ehrbar Hall. The little pianist was also invited to perform in a public recital dedicated to Mozart at Bӧsendorfer Hall in Mozarthaus.

Ayaan Deshpande with his teacher Aida Bisengalieva in Vienna

Having also won the second prize in the composition category, he performed his original composition at the World Composers’ Concert. “I have run out of epithets for Ayaan. He has something special that you don’t see in other prodigies,” says Marat Bisengaliev, SOI Music Director and founder of the academy. Speaking of his piano teacher Aida Bisengalieva, he adds, “Aida is the right person to nurture his talent. He needn’t be taught, just gently guided.

Call for Composers

At a concert of the SOI Chamber Orchestra conducted by Indo-Danish conductor Maria Badstue in July, a surprise awaited the audience that turned up in big numbers despite the incessant rains. In the programme for the evening that included works by Sibelius and Beethoven was another work by an Indian composer Johann Mathews.

“Cornerstone” was among the selected works for the Call for Composers initiative of the Symphony Orchestra of India, which, during the pandemic, invited Western classical music compositions from composers across India and Indians across the world. Each of the 100 entries from 82 composers were then heard by a jury that included Marat Bisengaliev.

Mathews, a Bengaluru-based composer, came with his family for the India premiere of the three-movement work composed for solo strings and piano. “Hearing my music performed live by the Symphony Orchestra of India was an indescribable experience … The Chamber Orchestra and its propensity for artistic brilliance, under the direction of Madam Maria Badstue, simply brought alive the notes on my pages … I am humbled by this level of artistic detail and accuracy of character, nuance and emotion throughout their performance,” said Mathews.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the September 2023 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.