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Zubin Mehta brings Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky to Kashmir

Zubin Mehta brings Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky to Kashmir

Shalimar Garden: The setting could not be more perfect. A cerulean autumn sky, majestic Chinar trees, a flower-bedecked Shalimar Garden and the magic of Zubin Mehta brought to life Beethoven, Haydn and Tchaikovsky as he conducted the Bavarian State Orchestra in the 'Ehsas-e-Kashmir' (Feel of Kashmir) concert Saturday evening. It all went off without a hitch.

The orchestra, comprising around 80 musicians, enthralled a select audience of around 800 special invitees, some of whom had come in private and chartered planes from outside the state.

The audience seemed to understand every nuance of the compositions played by the musicians as their applause was matched by Mehta's smiling appreciation.

A special attraction was a composition by Kashmiri musician Abhay Rustum Sopori that gelled perfectly with the orchestra's offering.

The concert, which started around 5 p.m. and ended at 6.45 p.m., was telecast live in more than 100 countries around the world. It was jointly organised by the German embassy and the 'Incredible India' campaign of the union tourism ministry, with assistance from the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department.

Mehta said he had waited for this moment not only since last year when he made a speech at the German embassy, but practically all his life.

"This is where it should be and I am happy I have finally made it," he said. He hoped that next time he came here, he would be able to conduct his orchestra for the common people of Kashmir.

German ambassador Michael Steiner said: "German and European heritage bows to Kashmir's people, its beauty and its difficult reality."

He said he was thankful to the people of Kashmir for this wonderful concert in the land of beauty and grandeur.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah thanked the German ambassador and the participants for making the concert a grand success and an event that would be remembered for long in Kashmir's cultural history.

A galaxy of VVIPs, including Governor N.N. Vohra, union ministers, ambassadors of European countries, leaders of national political parties, corporate honchos and film personalities sat in rapt attention till the concert ended.

Extra-ordinary security arrangements were in place inside and outside the concert venue as 27 companies (2,700 personnel) of paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and scores of local policemen secured the area and the passage of the VVIPs to the concert.

All roads leading to the venue had been sealed for public and private transport a day ahead of the concert and passage of invitees Saturday was highly regulated.

Markets outside the 17th century Garden that are usually thronged by visitors and locals in the evenings were closed for the last two days as part of the elaborate security arrangements.

No tourists or locals were allowed to move inside the Dal Lake within a three-km radius of the Shalimar Garden.

Motorized speed boats were used by security forces to secure the Dal Lake, on whose banks the Shalimar Garden is situated.

Mehta was given the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony by President Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi on Friday.

Separatist leaders and some lesser known guerrilla groups had opposed the holding of the concert. While the separatist leaders said holding of an international event like this aimed at legitimizing New Delhi's rule in Kashmir, guerrilla groups had said they would target foreigners in Kashmir if the authorities went ahead with the concert.


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