Fareed Curmally was born in the late heyday of post-colonial independent India. His mother, a British-trained doctor, worked in family planning for the wives of Naval Officers in what was then Bombay’s Western Coast Guard. There was always a whiff of medicine in the home. It was no wonder that the seventeen-year-old, when faced with a career dilemma, chose the stability of a medical one. This was the more surprising as he had received for his graduating performance of Kabalevsky’s third Piano Sonata at the LRSM diploma exam a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London. Receiving also the Sir Adrian Boult Cup for his magna cum laude success, he turned the scholarship down to join Grant Medical College in Mumbai the next year.
Already recognized as a major musical talent at student concerts and competitions, he recorded extensively as a child artist and teenager for All India Radio. During his five-year medical bachelor’s degree course he added consistently to his already large repertoire, and in the Bach Anniversary Year of 1985, he appeared playing the second Partita in a nationally televised concert from the Goethe-Institut's Stuttgart Hall in Mumbai.
He would later be invited by Mumbai's National Centre for the Performing Arts to perform for Poulenc’s 100th Birth Anniversary Concert in 1999 and Mozart’s 250th in 2006.
It was in 1985, with a bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery already under his belt, that he decided to attempt a dual career. His first job in music was not long in coming. A visiting opera company from Vienna needed a repetiteur. Already experienced in chamber music and vocal accompaniment, he rose to the occasion and was chosen to accompany the soloists in a gala concert after the opera had been produced. He was only twenty-two and this was his first professional engagement.
For the following three years and before he took a Master’s degree in General Medicine, he took over the reins of Bombay’s legendary Cantata Choir and directed from memory a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in an original arrangement for two pianos and percussion. It was a great success, but London beckoned. On returning from a long stint at London’s prestigious St Mary’s Hospital he first encountered the then new HIV epidemic which set the tone for his life’s work as a doctor.
His musical career in India was blossoming with regular partnerships in chamber music and vocal accompaniment for which he had a particular sympathy, with an intimate knowledge of European languages and poetry. Latterly, he has been devouring the huge four-hand repertoire in a performing partnership with French pianist Chantal de Salaberry. They have toured across the major cities in India and Belgium (where she resides) over a span of ten years.
He is now Artistic Director of Mumbai Chamber Soloists and also runs his own artist management agency. New to Classical Music Daily in 2021, he has contributed as international music critic to Serenade Magazine.
Fareed Curmally listens to the Chamber Orchestra of the Symphony Orchestra of India
In his first report for Classical Music Daily, Fareed Curmally describes a magical afternoon of orchestral music in Mumbai