HOW IT ALL BEGAN...
On November 20, 2009, Friedrich Kleinknecht and Parvesh Java met in Mumbai for an early morning coffee at Colaba's Café Leopold and the two came up with the idea of having a little musical celebration for Robert Schumann's birth bicentenary which was the following year. As that idea began to take root, Parvesh thought to make this little musical celebration into a slightly bigger production by inviting two outstanding pianists, well known to Mumbai audiences, who had been amongst his strongest influences: Marialena Fernandes and Paul Stewart. To his delight, they both agreed. The final piece of the puzzle was a producer without whom Schumann's birthday party was just a pie in the sky. The music house of Furtados was already one of the greatest supporters of the development of Western Classical Music in India, and for Parvesh, not only was Anthony Gomes the most obvious choice, he was the only choice.
Around the same time, the Gomes family, headed by Antoinette Gomes, had been thinking of ways to memorialize their late patriarch, John Gomes and they had already discussed instituting a national music competition in his honour. When Parvesh brought the idea for a Schumann celebration to Anthony, the timing was just right and the two of them went on to co-create Con Brio ‘The John Gomes Memorial Piano Competition & Festival’ produced by the music house of Furtados. Anthony and Parvesh, as producer and director, have steered the Con Brio ship right since the very first festival in 2010, which was called ‘Schumania’ and featured the first Con Brio competition. In 2011, Mark Troop and Patricia Rozario joined Marialena Fernandes and Paul Stewart to form the core team of artists who have been the driving force behind the festival ever since.
The Con Brio family after the finale event in 2011.
Con Brio has always been about local talent. All the international musicians that have supported Con Brio have done so in the spirit of providing a platform to the local musicians. Several Indian instrumentalists and singers, joined by past winners of the competition, come together year after year to perform at the festival. Today, the Con Brio family consists of over 70 musicians — pianists, string players, singers, actors and other instrumentalists — who regularly return to grace the festival with their artistry. The festival has a propensity for lesser-known composers and rarely performed repertoire and is proud to have presented several Indian premieres and even a few World premieres. Brand new and existing arrangements have been a mainstay because of its commitment to presenting interesting works even when all the required performing forces are not available. With great conviction in its values since its first edition in 2010, Con Brio quickly established itself as one of the great champions of local talent and a landmark event on the Western Classical Music calendar of India.
The success of the festival belongs to the performers and four are critical to its journey — the MaMa and PaPa of Con Brio. Marialena Fernandes, Mark Troop, Patricia Rozario and Paul Stewart have supported the festival and competition from the earliest days by not only performing but also mentoring the young musicians, providing direction to the festival and on occasion adjudicating the competition. There are numerous others to thank for allowing Con Brio to flourish. We wouldn't have even gotten through one year, let alone ten, had it not been for the support of The National Centre for the Performing Arts. They gave the festival a home and have worked tirelessly towards its smooth running. We would like to extend special thanks to Farrahnaz Irani and Zenobia Bhada for all their support throughout the year while the festival is being planned and to Sakharam Gawde and his team for their hard work during the days of the concerts. Of course, the concerts are just the end product. Behind the scenes, several people come together to provide an environment with musicians in which they can thrive. Pheroza, Jamshyd, Raika and Navroze Godrej have opened their homes to the festival since the first year and housed numerous musicians, provided spaces to rehearse, and given us the best post-concert celebrations we could have asked for!