A Passion for Baroque

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
Passion for Baroque

A Passion for Baroque, a concert at NCBS. Photo. Geoff Hyde


This music comes out of silence, and to silence it returns,” Dominik Schwudke, introducing the concert, A Passion for Baroque.


On the night of May 11 the expansive plaza of NCBS’s new lab complex was the venue for a concert celebrating the music of the 18th century German masters, George Friderich Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. The performance featured five instrumentalists and a vocalist, NCBS’s own baritone, Dominik Schwudke. It was the first of three recitals for the ensemble, who also played at Memorial Church, Whitefield, and St John’s Church, Bangalore, on the following nights.

The concert was a year in the planning, says Schwudke, the main organisor. Finding musicians skilled in playing in the Baroque style was difficult, with Bangalore only having a fledgling scene for music of this period. The final composition of the ensemble had fewer string players than is ideally required for many of the pieces played, which meant that Schwudke had to heed the famed Bangalorean motto, “Adjust maadi”. Those elements of the music originally written for stringed instruments were re-arranged by Schwudke to be played on two electronic keyboards, donated by Yamaha and Thomsun Music House for the concerts.

Nevertheless the concert did feature two string instrumentalists: Anne Vanhelms on violin and Erich Buchner on violoncello. Like Schwudke, neither Vanhelms nor Buchner are professional musicians, even if many of us in the audience might have thought otherwise. Buchner is a neurobiologist from the University of Wurzburg, Germany, and has had a long association with NCBS researchers, having been Veronica Rodrigues’ postdoctoral supervisor at Tubingen in the 1980’s. Buchner has managed to maintain a double life as a musician, Schwudke points out, having played in an amateur string quartet in Germany for about fifty years. Vanhelms who delighted everyone with several uplifting violin solos is a mathematician, and professor of statistics at Toulouse Business School, France. She plays regularly in classical ensembles and also occasionally in bands playing modern popular music.
Dominik Schwudke

Dominik Schwudke, vocalist. Photo: Anshul Sukhwal

A Bangalore concert is not a first-time experience for Schwudke who has sung previously at the Alliance Francaise and the Indian Institute of Science. The NCBS concert involved some last minute changes of plan, with rain arriving remarkably on cue at 7pm to force what was to be an outdoor event to migrate to the shelter of  NCBS's elegant new building. While this might have meant some acoustic challenges for the musicians, the  stormy night, with occasional rumbles of thunder, and distant lightning flashes, provided the perfect setting for the darkly glorious music.

The players:

Erich Buchner (Wurzburg, Germany) – Violoncello
Joyce Gillian (Bangalore, India) - Harpsichord / Organ
Melvin Manoharan (Bangalore, India) - Trumpet
Dominik Schwudke (Bangalore, India) - Bass-Baritone
Nalini Suryawanshi (Bangalore, India) - Harpsichord / Organ
Anne Vanhems (Toulouse, France) - Violin


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