Simply Schubert - The Bangalore Men - 27th Aug. @ HPS







     This was the first time I was attending a recital that was dedicated to only one composer. Whatever apprehensions I had about this were peremptorily dismissed from the first notes of the smooth, perfectly balanced harmonies of The Bangalore Men.

     The concert presented by ‘The Bangalore Men’ an eleven-singer all-male voice ensemble, directed by Jonas Olsson, simply named ‘SIMPLY SCHUBERT’ after Franz Peter Schubert, the composer whose music we would hear for the next 90 minutes.

     The featured soloists as named in the informative and well-designed programme that was given to all of us were Payal John - Soprano, Jonas Olsson – Baritone, and Natalia Kapylova – Piano. 

     Composer Franz Schubert, 1797 – 1828, born and bred in Vienna, Austria, was the romantic poet of music. And the music of Schubert bridged the ‘Romantic period’ and the ‘Classical period’ of classical music. His music was classical in design but romantic and passionate in emotion.

     While Schubert did in fact compose a few poems of his own, most of the poems have been written by various poets, but the poems were merely vehicles for the music which was supreme. Schubert, in staggering productivity set to music some six hundred romantic songs known as lieder, and song cycles, narrative poems meant for voice and piano. What’s unusual is that in Schubert’s songs, the human voice and the piano got equal importance, with the piano often interpreting the poem instead of the voice.

     And the Vocal ensemble, The Bangalore Men, and the pianist and soloists interpreted and brought to life the music of Franz Schubert in a manner that was true to the music, though the whole programme was sung in German.

     The evening’s performance began with a song called ‘The Gondolier’, Schubert’s version of a barcarole, a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers. This lilting song was sung by the ensemble in perfect harmony, in perfect balance, with a perfect blending of voices to create the image of gentle waves; the cadences, the texture, the modulation, and the absence of any dissonance made a huge impression. The Bangalore Men have to be acknowledged for their superlative vocal expression, and control.

     The ensemble went on with the same unerring exactitude and command over the music, through the programme of 18 songs, interspersed with solos by Payal John, Jonas Olsson and pianist Natallia Kapylova.

      Payal John’s first solo was ‘Ave Maria’, which she sang in German, but her voice, a rich soprano-towards- mezzo was crystal-clear, rounded and very expressive, so one felt the depth-of-beauty this music expresses. Ave Maria, to this listener, was unusual for Schubert, though it is arguably his most recognised work, perhaps because he was best known for his love-songs and this was the only religious song in the programme, all the rest being love songs, with the exception of the 23rd Psalm. Payal John sang three other songs accompanied by pianist Natallia Kapylova, a singer’s ideal accompanist, following the sentiment of the composition with empathy.  

     Jonas Olsson, long time resident of Bengaluru, is Swedish, a trained musician from the Gothenburg conservatory, he has performed in Hyderabad before, first as a solo counter-tenor, and then as part of the Madrigals etc. In this programme, he was the Baritone soloist, he performed ‘Erlkonig’ D 328. This song is really a narrative dialogue between three people and the soloist has to adjust his voice to be three people in the same song. Jonas acquitted himself well, he had the right timbre of voice for this and the ability to bring out the drama of the song; because Schubert had perhaps written it for a countertenor who can switch to Baritone because of the huge range and dynamic contrast needed to express the sentiment of the song. The pianist in this piece had her work cut out for her due to the repetitive patterns that have to be played at a good speed, yet both the playing and singing were remarkably good.

      Jonas Olsson also sang ‘Der Doppelganger’ towards the end of the programme, which was also an exercise in contrasts.  

     Natallia Kapylova, from Belarus, was the next soloist, playing ‘impromptu’s No 3 and 4’, from Schubert’s four Impromptus Op 90 D 899. ‘Impromptu No 3’, was pure, quiet and flowing, like happily walking along a tree-shaded rippling stream, and the next, ‘Impromptu No 4’, quite a contrast, though quiet, it was more percussive with the left hand, yet the sound of the higher notes combined with the bass notes was equally soothing. Natalya’s fine sense of dynamics and her dextrous fingers running up and down the scales showed her sensitivity to Schubert’s pretty impromptu’s.

     There were four other soloists from amongst The Bangalore Men ensemble, the first was Chinglang Roumon, Baritone, who sang the difficult piece ‘An die Musik’ well. A soloist from amongst the basses, Subin Thomas, sang ‘Der Tod und das Madchen’, he too acquitted himself well displaying good control even on the really low notes. The third soloists from the ensemble was tenor, Timmy Yesudasan who sang ‘Standchen’ from ‘Schwanengesang’, he impressed, as he seemed more at ease as a soloist and presented the song with flair.  

     I must confess that my apprehensions about this programme were not about listening to an evening of Schubert, but about how well a group of part-time musicians could do justice to the music. It’s true, all the musicians on stage do other work to earn their living, and only make time, when they get the time, to pursue music, practice and rehearse. This is true of the whole men’s ensemble, as well as a specially, trained and beautiful voice like Payal John, who I reckon, has so few opportunities to perform Western classical music, and whose gift, besides inherent talent, is the result of rigorous training to make her whole ‘being’ an instrument of music.

     But my misgivings were quite unfounded, and the whole programme was carried out with a rare professionalism, and one has to exercise restraint from being hyperbolic in describing the excellent production and performance of Schubert’s music by the musicians on stage at the Hyderabad Public School. 

     And for this opportunity to listen to this great ensemble, The Bangalore Men, whom Jonas Olsson is part of; and Payal John, and Natallia Kapylova, we have to acknowledge Amita Desai of The Goethe Zentrum, Hyderabad, The principal, staff and students of The Hyderabad Public School and the efforts of Joe Koster, the multi-tasking Swiss army knife of the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation.     

Write-up by Pratap Antony



Grab und Mond


23rd Psalm


metro plus


Simply Schubert – an eclectic mix of flowing male-choruses, tender and dramatic lieder and flowing piano solos, presented by The Bangalore School of Music. The program will showcase the musical genius of Schubert, with some of his most beloved choruses for male choir, such as Vier Gesänge, Ständchen (with soprano solo) and Der 23rd psalm, together with immortal lieder such as Erlkönig, Gretchen am Spinnrade and pieces from Schwanengesang. Together with Mr Jonas Olsson (Sweden), Ms Payal John (Pune) and Natallia Kapylova (Belarus/India), the all-male ensemble  of Bangalore School of Music, The Bangalore Men, will transport the audience to green pastures, canals of Venice and loving couples…..

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