Musical tribute today to last maharaja of Mysore

Musical tribute today to last maharaja of Mysore

Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar was a sophisticated connoisseur and generouspatronofWesternclassical music. He was in personal touch with several masters abroad

Karl Lutchmayer, British-Goan concert pianist, lecturer and writer.

July 2019 marked the birth centenary of the 25th and last ruler of the princely State of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar. The International Music and Arts Society is paying a musical tribute to him with a concert by British-Goan pianist Karl Lutchmayer and French-Brazilian guest soprano Béatrice de Larragoïti. 

A Western classical pianist who also composed 96 kritis in Carnatic music, Wadiyar was a generous patron of the arts. He is also remembered for his foresight and progressive administration: he sanctioned land for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Wadiyar was a man of diverse interests. However, it is his dedication to promote good music that sets him apart. At his prompting, his sister Rani Vijaya Devi founded the International Music & Arts Society in 1974. The institution continues to function under her daughter, Urmila Devi, who is collaborating with the Maharaja Shri Jayachamaraja Foundation for Wednesday’s event. 

“We will be playing some Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, Ferruccio Busoni and Nikolai Medtner. We made the choices based on his eclectic musical sensibilities,” says Karl Lutchmayer. “The music he loved was subtle. They would never be the obvious ones or the ones you would like immediately.”

Introduction to music

Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, often referred to as J C Wadiyar, had ascended the throne in 1940, at the age of 21, after the death of his father Narasimharaja Wadiyar and his uncle Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. His responsibility as the successor to the throne cut short his dreams of being a pianist. 

But music was integral to the royal life, and every function at the palace featured Carnatic music and classical dance. Growing up under a father who was a jazz aficionado, the young royal developed a keen ear for Western classical music as well. His formal lessons, however, began with piano lessons under Sister Ignatius of Good Shepherd Convent.

“During the war, a Trinity examiner was stranded here, and it is believed he stayed close to the palace and gave lessons to the children,” adds Lutchmayer. Over the years, Wadiyar acquired an encyclopaedic collection of records, state-of-art sound systems and grand pianos to help hone his music abilities. 

Jayachamaraja Wadiyar

Contribution to music 

Wadiyar received a Licentiateship in Piano Performance from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 1937 and was granted an honorary Fellowship of Trinity College London in 1945. Shortly before his coronation, he visited Sergei Rachmaninoff in Switzerland and was introduced to the works of the Russian composer Nikolai Medtner. He played a very important role in bringing the attention of the West to the composer.

Even though they never met, the maharaja was extremely impressed with Medtner’s work and decided to finance a series of his recordings. “His compositions aren’t what you would consider mainstream. They are dense, complicated, and slow. This shows how multifarious he was,” shares Lutchmayer.

Wadiyar even formed The Medtner Society in 1949 to spread awareness about the composer. Medtner repaid his dues by dedicating his ‘Third Piano Concerto’ to the maharaja. Critic Fred Smith described the recording as “one of the greatest romances in the history of the gramophone”. He funded similar recordings of Alexander Scriabin, and it was one such recording that has been dedicated to the maharaja that led Lutchmayer to discover his immense contribution to the world of music.

As a king, he continued to keep his love for music alive by learning and being a patron to several notable musicians, including Veena Venkatagiriyappa, V Doreswamy Iyengar, and Chintalapalli Ramachandra Rao. He learnt to play the veena under Venkatagiriyappa and grasped the nuances of Carnatic music under the great composer Mysore Vasudevacharya. Wadiyar composed 94 kritis under an assumed name, Sri Vidya, and they were published by his son-in-law R Raja Chandra in 2010.

In 1948, 84-year-old Richard Strauss wrote his farewell to the world through his Four Last Songs. It was his wish that the Wagnerian soprano, Kirsten Flagstad would perform them in an orchestral concert for its premier.

While he died, his wish unfulfilled, halfway across the world, Wadiyar decided to sponsor its premiere and live recording. Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra, with Flagstad as the soprano, just as Strauss has wished. This recording went on to join his personal collection, which exceeded 20,000 records.

Having played such an integral role in popularising both, Carnatic and Western classical music, it is only befitting that a tribute is paid to the Maharaja through music.

British-Goan pianist Karl Lutchmayer and French-Brazilian guest soprano Béatrice de Larragoïti perform on Wednesday at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur, at 6.30 pm.

JC and classicism

Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, after whom institutions (JC Polytechnic), roads (JC Road) and neighbourhoods (Jayanagar, JC Nagar) are named, commissioned the recording and performance of the last composition of Richard Strauss. The recording was praised as ‘one of the greatest romances in the history of the gramophone.’

Wadiyar (1919-1974) was also a huge admirer of Russian composer Nikolai Medtner and commissioned recordings of his work.

He was a pianist, and had also learnt Carnatic music, going on to compose 96 kritis, signing them off as ‘Sri Vidya.’ He had taken lessons from great Carnatic musicians such as Veena Venkatagiriyappa and Mysore Vasudevachar.