Thursday, May 31, 2007



The Piano Woman

Perin Ilavia

Sothie Paul Duraisamy graduated from the Royal College of Music, London and trained in Hague with Jan de Man. She went professional in 1955 and has performed around the continent and Far East, in Mumbai and Chennai. Graduating from the Royal College of Music, London, training in Hague with Jan de Man. She went professional in 1955 and has performed around the continent and Far East, in Mumbai and Chennai.

Sothie Paul Duraisamy, presented a well-appreciated piano concert at the Alliance Francaise last week, courtesy International Music and Arts Society started by Rani Vijaya Devi and other music enthusiasts. She spoke to Metrolife about her life as a pianist before the concert. Sothie’s parents were Ceylon immigrants to Malaysia and she was born in Kuala Lumpur. Her mother encouraged her to learn the piano, which she did, but not with the view of being a professional. In fact, she attended medical school in Singapore for two years, but figured music was her calling. Graduating from the Royal College of Music, London, training in Hague with Jan de Man. She went professional in 1955 and has performed around the continent and Far East, in Mumbai and Chennai, the latter, which she visits every year.

Sothie met her husband, Louis, on a flight during one of her tours. Louis was employed with Burma Shell, they lived in Mumbai for several years, where their children were born. His transferable job has extended many opportunities for Sothie to perform in the several countries they have been in. She currently lives in Washington.

“South Africa was a great place” she says. “Music has given me the opportunity to play to an audience from various cultures.” She recalls her most exciting moment playing with an orchestra for the first time in Trinidad. “Performing with an orchestra is physically exciting. There’s a sort of an euphoric high that surrounds you as the music flows.”

Teaching at the Conservatorium in the junior department, and taking private tuition, Sothie found her five-hour practice sessions had to be trimmed down to three hours. With six to seven solo performances a year, she is looking forward to her concert in October in the USA.

Their daughter Shonali, was tutored in piano by her, with private lessons at Princeton, and has performed with Sothie. When very young, Shonali had decided to be a journalist. Living in Australia, she’s on a six month assignment in Bangalore. Sothie holidays with her every year in Australia, and this is a good change.

Sothie does not have an agent booking her concerts. As always, friends who know her in many cities, organise concerts. One apparel she cannot do with out in her wardrobe are sarees. “I was mistaken for a West Indian. I wear only sarees for concerts, and when abroad, even for shopping.” A good piano, is as important as a receptive audience. As for the music scenario, she opines, “It’s depressing. It’s an aging audience, from the stage you see heads with only grey hair.” Introducing each piece to the audience before playing, the music aficionados of Bangalore revelled in her presentation of Chopin’s Fantasy in F minor, Pathetique by Beethoven, and works by Debussy and Ravel.




Sothie Duraisamy did her schooling up to “O” levels at the Methodist Girls School in KL, and was among the first batch of girls admitted to the science stream in V.I. for the Post School Certificate classes (Form Six today), from 1951 to 1952. She won a merit scholarship – awarded to the first three rankers – to study medicine at the University of Singapore. In her second year there she also did the LRSM piano performers diploma and was recommended for a scholarship by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (U.K.). She faced a difficult decision - continuing medical studies or taking up music but decided to go to London to study at the Royal College of Music (RCM). 


VI Girls Hockey Team with Headmaster, Mr Payne, and Hockey Master, Mr de Souza, 1951
Sothie Duraisamy is in the back row, second from right

She graduated from the RCM, where she studied piano under Angus Morrison and singing under Veronica Mansfield. While there, she won an Exhibition (scholarship) and the Borwick Prize. She furthered her musical studies at the Koninklijk Conservatorium, The Hague (Netherlands), where she did the “C” recital diploma (piano) under Jan de Man, and was selected as soloist for their annual orchestral concert, Edo de Waard conducting. Since then she has performed as soloist with various orchestras – Wolverhampton, Trinidad, Newark etc, and also given solo recitals in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Trinidad, the UK, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands, the US, and conducted choirs in some of these countries.  

She currently lives in Washington DC, with her husband, Louis Paul, and continues to perform in various parts of the world. 

Soloist with orchestra:

- Holland: with the Koninklijk Conservatorium orchestra of The Hague, Edo de Waard conducting Rachmaninoff’s variations on a theme by Paganini;

- England: with the Orchestra of the Royal College of Music, London, Richard Austin conducting Rachmaninoff’s variations on a theme by Paganini;

- Holland: with the Bataafse Symphony orchestra, The Hague, Wim Baarens conducting Beethoven’s Piano concerto # 3 in C minor;

- Holland: with the Bataafse Symphony orchestra, The Hague, Wim Baarens conducting Beethoven’s Piano Concerto # 1in C major;

- Holland: with the Arcangelo Corelli Chamber orchestra, Bernard Weyts conducting Bach’s Concerto in F minor;

- Holland: with the Arcangelo Corelli Chamber orchestra, Bernard Weyts conducting Dittersdorf’s Concerto in A major;

- Trinidad: with the National Sinfonia, Jessel Murray conducting Beethoven’s Piano Concerto # 3 in C minor;

- England: with the Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra, Peter Morris conducting Rachmaninoff’s variations on a theme by Paganini;

- Trinidad: with the National Sinfonia, Jessel Murray conducting Rachmaninoff’s variations on a theme by Paganini;

- USA: with the Newark Symphony Orchestra, Delaware, Roman Pawlowski who will be conducting Beethoven’s Piano Concerto # 3 in C minor on October 28, 2007.

Newspaper comments on the performance - Rachmaninoff Variations on a theme by Paganini
(English translation of relevant sections)

Haagsche Courant, The Hague: “…… at the Kurzaal last evening. ……The Koninklijk Conservatorium orchestra under the baton of Edo de Waard … true to the romantic tradition was the pianist Sothie Paul-Duraisamy. She played the Rachmaninoff variations on a theme by Paganini and here we heard unmistakeable talent.” -------W. Lievense

Het Vaderland, The Hague: “………..After the intermission we ……heard the famous Rachmaninoff variations on a theme by Paganini and the Stravinsky symphony in three movements …….under the baton of Edo de Waard ……the soloist in the former was Sothie Paul-Duraisamy. She untangled its intricacies and played it solidly with sun-ripened musicality and technique.” ------W.H.Thijsse

Express Star, Woverhampton: “……….Sothie Paul-Duraisamy gave a stylish and proficient account of the solo part of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini and caught the subtle nuances of expression which the piece contains” ------Jerald Smith

Solo recitals

- England: St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London; Westminster Hall, London

- Holland: Kasteel Duivenvoorde, and on radio channels “VARA” and “AVRO”

- Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur – in the Dewan Bahasa Hall, Town Hall, Civic Hall, Yamaha Concert Centre, British Council Hall, on TV Malaysia and Radio Malaysia; and in the cities of Ipoh, Malacca and Penang

- Singapore: Victoria Memorial Hall, and on Radio Singapore

- India: Bombay, Madras, and on All India Radio

- Trinidad: Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Point Fortin and on TV’s “TTT Presents” series

- Hong Kong: Radio

- USA: Jordan Kitt’s Steinway Hall, Washington

- USA: Calvary Church, Charlotte, NC, December 2004

- Trinidad: Port of Spain, at the annual Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival, March 2006

- USA: At the Hefner Auditorium, Gaithersburg, MD, June 2006

- India: At the Alliance Francaise Auditorium, Bangalore, May 2007

Two-piano recitals

- Australia: Perth and Melbourne;

- S. Africa: Capetown;

- Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur;

- Holland: The Hague

Works played included: Three Preludes and Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin, Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, Danses Andalouses by Infante, Petite Suite by Debussy, Minuet, Gavotte and Polonaise by Saint-Saens, Waltzes by Brahms, Toccata and Fugue in D minor> by Bach

Choir conducting

- Trinidad: The Clifton Hill choir, Point Fortin;

- Malaysia: Methodist Tamil Church choir;

- Holland: The International Women’s choir; The American Protestant church choir, The Hague;

- USA: Welcome to Washington choir