M.S.Gopalakrishnan was born in the year 1931. He is the son of violinist Parur Sundaram Iyer, who was the professor of music in University of Bombay. This in itself proved a providential circumstance as it helped to build a bridge of understanding between Carnatic and Hindustani sangeet 'paddhati' during his impressionable years from six to sixteen. He is one of a rare breed of musicians capable of performing both Hindustani and Carnatic Music.
The Violin, a European instrument adopted into Indian classical music in the 19th Century is now utterly indianised in playing technique and tone. Also it is now one of the most common instruments in Carnatic music. M.S. Gopalakrishnan has attained a phenomenal tone and exquisite balance in his violin and clarity of expression and technique. Through relentless research and 'Riyaaz', M.S.Gopalakrishnan has innovated newer techniques on his violin such as one-finger playing, thematic development on single-string octaves and alternatives octaves to make his violin a more expressive medium.
M.S.Gopalakrishnan has one of the finest violin tones. His tone in the violin is the only one in India, which can match with the likes of Heifitz, Nathan Milstein, Kreisiler, Oistrakh, Elman, etc. His bowing is so smooth, that it is difficult for even a discerning listener to distinguish between his forward and backward bow movements. His bowing technique can create sounds as joyous as the flute and as enriching as a double reed instrument like Shehnai, which he uses to full measure.
With the crystal clear tonal purity imbibed from his Carnatic lineage and the emotional impact of the 'Shruti-Bhav' insight of the Hindustani gayaki mode, he has evolved a unique style of his own which imparts more depth and dimension to ragas than hitherto expressed through instrumental music.
M.S.Gopalakrishnan is one of the few musicians who plays Hindustani Music also in the violin and is highly respected. He plays the Khayals, Thumris, and Natyasangeet in gayaki 'ang' with extra-ordinary insight and his technical virtuosity of various bowing techniques becomes wonderfully prominent in' Masit Khani ' and 'Raza Khani' gats in the instrumental style. The brilliance of MSG's violin attracted the attention of the maestros of Hindustani Music like Pt. Omkarnath Thakur and Pt. D.Y.Paluskar who readily accepted the young virtuoso as their accompanist. With such a beginning as this, M.S.Gopalakrishnan has never looked back. His study of the Hindustani system was augmented by imbibing this great art from great musicians such as Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
No less a violin virtuoso than the internationally acclaimed Yehudi Menuhin exclaimed, 'I have not heard such violin in all my travels! How superbly this young Indian is playing our instrument'. Coming from Yehudi Menuhin, this should be construed as the highest compliment. Whether he is playing a 'Krithi" of Thyagaraja for the rasikas of Carnatic music or a Masitkhani gat for lovers of music, M.S.Gopalakrishnan and his audiences share a rapport which is the key of his popularity the world over. He has also learnt certain compositions in western classical music and he sometimes astounds foreign audience by playing a small piece of Beethoven.
Another most wonderful aspect of his music is that it has grown more mature, more melodic and ripe with the passage of time.
It is very difficult to perceive all dimensions of M.S. Gopalakrishnan's musical presentations in a single sitting as in live concerts. To completely appreciate his music in all its fullness and creativity, one has to listen to the same recording a large number of times as he gives too much for perception in all his dimensions simultaneously.
He is the recipient of many awards including the prestigious "Padmashree" and Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award.
M.S.Gopalakrishnan has learnt the art of Hindustani Classical Music from his father, Parur Sundaram Iyer who in turn was a GuruBhai of musicians as illustrious as Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, Narayan Rao Vyas , D.Y. Paluskar, Vinayakrao Patwardhan etc. Though initially he learnt the Carnatic style, M.S.Gopalakrishnan actually went through the agony of practicing the scales meant for the beginner in the Hindustani system. He continued to train under the great master of the Kirana Gharana, Shri Krishnanand who passed away recently at Chennai.
M.S. Gopalakrishnan is very respected as an exponant of Hindustani Classical Music and has taken part in major festivals of Hindustani Classical Music in India and abroad. He is very much appreciated for subtlety and expressiveness. His bowing is ever so smooth and reflects his labour to match the finest masters of this instrument in western classical music. He is in a true sense a virtuoso as far as technique of violin playing is considered in India.
1. Raga Madhuwanti
2. Raga Durga
Maseetkhani Gat in Rupak Taal
RazaKhani Gat in Teentaal
3. Mishra Mand Dhun in Keherva