Tirupunithura Narayanaiyar Krishnan, the eminent violinist was born on 6 October 1928 at Tirupunithura. He picked up the rudiments of music from his father Narayana Iyer. Later he underwent rigorous training in playing the violin under Alleppey Parthasarathy and gave his first solo concert at the age of 11. The violinist was mentored in his early years by the celebrated Carnatic vocalist Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.
T N Krishnan gained great proficiency in his art soon and honed his talents by accompanying the Who’s Who of the Carnatic music world like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, Musiri Subramanya Iyer, Alathur Brothers (Srinivasa Iyer and Sivasubramania Iyer), M D Ramanathan, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer as well.
Along with two of his illustrious contemporaries Lalgudi Jayaraman and M S Gopalakrishnan, T N Krishnan formed a trio that was hailed as the ‘Violin Trinity’ by classical music aficionados. Each had his own distinctive style yet all three were rated highly and their concerts were well received in India and abroad.
Krishnan who taught music in the ‘parampara’ (traditional) style, travelled abroad extensively as an accompanist with top musicians and also as a solo violinist. His music had a nostalgic feel that kept the listeners in a thrall. It endeared him to the audience and thousands of students who looked at his performances as education. Although Lalgudi Jayaraman was celebrated for his ‘bani’, Krishnan too had his own interpretation of the ‘bani’ which essentially involved a blende of melody and rhythm complementing the other but rhythm taking a bow before the melody.
A regular at the annual Margazhi festival conducted by the reputed Madras Music Academy, Krishnan played to packed audiences even as an octogenarian. The eminent violinist’s scholarship and his in-depth knowledge of Carnatic music enabled him to rise to great heights in the field of administration as well. Krishnan served with distinction as a Professor of Music at the Chennai Music College and later went on to become the Principal of the College. He was also appointed as Dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts of the University of Delhi and also served as Vice Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy between 1981 and 1983. T N Krishnan was also an Asthana Vidwan of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD).
In an illustrious career as a violist that spanned over seven decades, Krishnan received a number of awards and fellowships including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1974, Sangeeta Kalanidhi awarded by the Music Academy in 1980 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2006. The Government of India conferred on him the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992.
While Krishnan’s daughter Viji Krishnan and his son Sriram Krishnan have proved themselves to be chips off the old block and have carved their own niches in Carnatic music as violinists, his sister Rajam, an acclaimed violinist in her own right, often accompanied her elder brother in violin ‘jugalbandis’ that fascinated audiences whenever they shared a stage. In a tribute to her brother on his demise she observed that Krishnan mesmerised generations with his performances. Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan too shared a great rapport with the violin maestro and their violin-sarod jugalbandis were a special treat.
T N Krishnan passed away in Chennai on the 2 November 2020 at 92 plunging the world of classical music in grief. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his message stated that ‘The demise of noted violinist T N Krishnan leaves a big void in the world of music. His works beautifully encapsulated a wide range of emotions and strands of our culture.’ T N Krishnan whose peers Lalgudi Jayaraman and M S Gopalakrishnan predeceased him, will remain a source of inspiration to all those whom he regaled with his musical prowess for decades on end.