Symphony Orchestra of India prepares its UK debut
- Carol Main
- 19 February 2019
Six concert tour kicking off in Edinburgh
Classical music in India usually brings to mind traditions such as Carnatic or Hindustani music, but there is a growing interest in Western classical music, with the first and only fully professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India, founded in 2006.
The orchestra makes its UK debut with a six-concert tour in February. One of the main driving forces behind it is violinist/conductor Marat Bisengaliev. 'We are all so excited about it, especially our Indian players,' says Bisengaliev. It was when Khushroo Suntook, chairman of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, heard Bisengaliev's West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra in London, that he thought he would invite them over to the centre, with the success of the visit paving the way for a new orchestra formed of Kazakh and Indian musicians.
'We were in an old-style café' says Bisengaliev, 'when over a cup of tea we thought, why don't we start something amazing, the first professional orchestra in India. It's ridiculous to think that back then there wasn't one. I listened to over 100 musicians all over India, mainly self-taught, and discovered some incredible talent.'
Always insistent that the quality of music-making would never be compromised, Bisengaliev invited other international musicians to stay full-time in India and brought them together with the Indian instrumentalists on 'a sort of orchestral crash course.' At first only a few met his stringent audition standards, but there are now ten fully employed Indian musicians in the orchestra and others are recruited as needed from a growing pool of local talent, supported by the orchestra's music school for up to 50 Indian children. Apart from the quality of the music, Bisengaliev's top priority is that the players have good working relationships. 'It's a happy orchestra, and that's one of its most important qualities.'
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 24 February.