Ludwig Pesch (1955) is a German-born musicologist, educator and musician. As pupil of flautist Ramachandra Shastry (1906-1992), musical heir to the great traditions of Tyagaraja and Sarabha Sastrigal, he became a scholar under the Indo-German Cultural Exchange Programme and the German Academic Exchange Service. He completed his Diploma Course in Carnatic Music (First Class) at Kalakshetra and performed alongside his guru for several years. At the same time he co-founded Sampradaya, a music documentation centre and archive in Chennai. He also initiated an architectural research project on Indian chamber theatres in conjunction with several Indian organizations which resulted in Sittrarangam, the Small Theatre Madras. (See “Small theatre” on www.natyasala.mimemo.net for more information.)
Since his training at Kalakshetra in Chennai he is based in Amsterdam. Thanks to the guidance of several authorities on Carnatic music, he was able to author “The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music”. Most prominent among his guides were Vidya Shankar and S Rajam (both 1919 – 2010) for questions pertaining to the application of theory to performance and teaching; and TR Sundaresan (1963) for the intricacies of laya in relation to tala theory.
In 2000 he was presented with the Cross of the Order of Merit conferred by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany “for his outstanding contribution to cultural relations with India”. An active participant in Europe’s dialogue with India, he received the Rabindranath Tagore Cultural Award (Kulturpreis) of the Indo-German Society (DIG) “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the spread of knowledge about India’s spirit and life”.
He continues developing www.carnaticstudent.org, an e-learning programme commissioned by the distance education department of Lueneburg University in Germany in 2001. Since 2002 he has been a visiting lecturer at the departments of indology and music at Wuerzburg University in Germany. He has collaborated with performers and academics affiliated with other European universities. These joint efforts resulted in an ongoing exploration of the intrinsic qualities of Carnatic music; and this in a manner that lends itself to teacher training programmes (www.aiume.org). On these lines he has authored many articles, lectures and workshops such as those hosted during the world conferences of the International Society for Music Education (ISME).
Voleti Venkateswarulu with Lalgudi GJR Krishnan (violin) and Karaikudi Mani (mridangam).
Recorded by Ludwig Pesch at Sittrarangam (Chennai) on 2 October 1987.
This concert by Voleti Venkateswarulu was facilitated by vocalist Dr Rita Rajan and her husband as part of a chamber music series hosted at Sittrarangam. Performances at this venue (The Small Theatre Madras) were part of our joint efforts to bring the subtle nuances of Carnatic music and other traditional art forms to the attention of younger audiences including teachers and music students. A similar series of “mikeless concerts” had earlier been held at the library of the German cultural institute (Max Mueller Bhavan); and this with unexpected success. Under the “Sampradaya” banner, we had featured many senior performers, particularly those whose specialties were rarely if ever presented to the concert going public of Chennai; and also topical concerts focusing on special genres cultivated by scholarly musicians.
It was in this context that I had earlier met “Voleti”, as he is affectionately called by his admirers. I instantly realized that his profound influence on rasikas had its roots in a commitment to spreading good music unconditionally and without any compromise. Not surprisingly, he closed his eyes while singing. Yet there was nothing in his mild and unassuming manners that would betray the greatness that continues to inspire several Carnatic musicians so long after his premature demise.
Having listened to Voleti Venkateswarulu during a Music Academy music season concert, I knew that I was in the presence of a singer for whom complete immersion in music was more than an idea: like my flute teacher Ramachandra Shastry, Voleti was the very embodiment of the musical philosophy expounded by Sri Tyagaraja. In the lyrics of his famous Sankarabharanam kriti “Svararagasudha”, we learn that “devotion associated with the ambrosia of svara and raga is verily paradise and salvation.”
It is a great privilege to share my recording of Voleti’s rendition of this very song with a larger public. Here we feel that Tyagaraja’s universal genius is expressed in the most appropriate manner: we are witness to an intimate exploration of both, the elaboration of one of the most important ragas of Carnatic music, and one of the famous compositions by Tyagaraja. For the saintly poet-composer, being a Nada Yogi was not an end in itself but part of an even greater quest, one that is not limited to the cultural boundaries of southern India.
Finally I would like to point out the the congenial accompaniment by Karaikudi Mani and Lalgudi GJR Krishnan. With the restraint inspired by the personality of Voleti Venkateswarulu, they have contributed to an unforgettable listening experience I encourage listeners to also share with others. In gratitude for their kind permission I share this precious recording with the larger world of music.
— Ludwig Pesch, Amsterdam 17 September 2011
On behalf of all listeners, Sunaada Radio thanks Ludwig for sharing concerts of Voleti Venkateswarulu and Pudukode Krishnamurthy.
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