Soulful strains of some of the most popular and best known western classical music compositions reverberated in the majestic backdrop of Zabarwan Hills when Zubin Mehta, world famous conductor, performed before a mesmerised audience in the Shalimar Gardens on the banks of Dal Lake here this evening.
In a unique setting in the 400-year-old Mughal Garden with its magnificent chinars, some as old as 300 years and more, Mehta and his Bavarian State Orchestra played its full cast of works of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in front of an invited audience of 1,500 guests.
The concert kicked off with the maestro leading the orchestra in concert with Abhay Sopori's troupe with traditional Kashmiri instruments and ended with a fusion of Kashmiri folk tunes and western classical music to thundering cheers from the packed venue.
The concert, 'Ehsaas-e-Kashmir'(Feel of Kashmir), assumed political overtones following opposition by separatists and civil society, which saw it as an attempt to present a picture of peace in Kashmir which had witnessed so much bloodshed in recent decades.
The city remained mostly shut at the call of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani against the concert.
Setting the tone for the concert, the 77-year-old music maestro started by saying in Hindi, "Hum bahut khush hain, hum bahut khush hain (I am very happy). I have waited and dreamt of this moment practically all my life and every person on the sub-continent will agree that this is where it (concert) should be held.
He promised to hold the next concert in a stadium which will be open for all Kashmiris free of charge.
"The wonderful soloists who will perform for you this evening, they are those whom we have heard inadvertently. Music sabke liye hona chahiye (Music should be for everyone) and it should not be for a select few.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah started by quoting the famous couplet by Amir Khusrau "that if there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here. Shalimar Bagh once again comes alive with the sound of music.
"We hope that the music from here will lift our spirits and lighten our souls for a better tomorrow," the chief minister said.
German Ambassador in India Michael Steiner, who hosted the concert, said, "The distance