1. How to Name it? - consists of three brief moments that melt into one another. A melody, sung low by the violin, is punctuated by answering bass instruments and keyboard. Reminiscences of Bach creep in, transformed and transmogrified in intriguing fashion. Toccata and fugue in D Minor ? Can it be ? Ilaiyaraaja smiles. The first movement, he says, is based on the Simhendra Madhyamam Ragam; the second, on the Shanmuga Priya Ragam; the third on the Madhuvanti Ragam. Bach who ?
2. Mad Mad Mood Fugue - In a calm, soothing composition Ilaiyaraaja has captured the spirit of a Bach fugue, without being bogged down in formalistic patterns. The theme is based on the Raga Maya Malava Gowla, with once again hints of the Toccata and Fugue.
3. You Cannot be Free - Introduced by the flute; a subdued violin plays a wailing melody; its plaintive voice is hemmed in by other instruments, as the mridangam - two - headed South Indian drum - natters intermittently; "I told you so ! You can't be free ! You can't ! You can't !".
4. Study for Violin - Kreutzer, Fiorillo and Carl Flesch studies were never like this, and you'll wish they were. Although introduced into india by the west a couple of centuries ago, the violin has become very much a traditional classical Indian instument, and in this treatment you see why. It's based on the Shanmuga Priya Raga, says the composer; and, if you have a pair of Western ears, he suggests to think in the key of C minor.
5. Is it Fused? - Provides a dramatic change of mood and pace. A steady, rhythmic Indian tune featuring classical guitar gives way to a trance-like, bluesy passage; drums pick up the beat, and we are drawn irresistibly into a full-blown jam session as trombone, strings, and percussion join in an exurberant celebration. Brief, but oh so stimulating! Banthuvarali Raga.
6. Chamber Welcomes Thiagaraja - Although this particular composition is dedicated to Thiagaraja, one of the greatest of indian itinerant musician-composers, listeners will recognize repeated allusions to a Bach concerto before they ever get to Thiagaraja. Which considering the chronology of the two cultures, is as it should be: Thiagaraja (1767-1847), who like Bach was a profoundly religious composer, was born 17 years after Bach died, and was infact a contemporary of Beethoven.
7. I Met Bech in My House - Begins with an invocation that at first is contemplative, introspective, and becomes increasingly importunate; it comes to a climax, and is interrupted by the first notes of Bach's Prelude to his violin Partitia III. The Prelude is soon played out in full in a brilliant dialogue with Indian instruments, a contrapuntal weaving that seems completely natural. Nor does it seems strange when voices break in spontaneously, in rapturous song, and we hear the Prelude articulated at speed in Indian solfeggio, so neatly, so fluently, that a great light dawns - the two musical cultures, Indian and Western - share common ground, far more than is commonly perceived.
8. ...And We Had a Talk - follows directly from the meeting with Bach, This time, a Bach Bouree is presented in a contrapuntal Indian setting.
9. Don't Compare - Fire in the blood, love in the air - there's excitement not only in Ilaiyaraaja's inspired melodies but also in the brilliant way in which he has orchestrated them. The drumming is spectacular, and so is the fiddling - but it is really unfair to single out these two instruments for special mention when the entire ensemble performs at such a high level. Changes of mood mark the different sections; dramatic use is made of rests and silence; and although elements of Jazz improvisation, Western classical influences, and modern dance rhythms are blended together expertly, the inspiration is unquestionably Indian. Don't Compare is an entrancing composition. And the title is apt - it's beyond compare!
10. Do Anything - Presents an almost Bartokian treatment of a South Indian melody as a flute as a flute sings above dance rhythms.