It is Chopin's Concerto No. 2. The book is open on the piano top and Julian Clef's hands are on the keys. Music comes out of the front door of his Ambalamukku house in Thiruvananthapuram. His father Willy Pulimugath, the man who has devoted a life to western classical music, runs his school on a floor above — Clef and Canto. Clef for Julian and Canto for his brother, Jordan Canto. Willy wanted music in their names. The proud dad shows the newest trophy that came to his elder son, the Rashtriya Kala Nirman Award from the Indo Socio Development Association. "The first official one from India," he says. After the many from other countries the young one had gone to perform at, you gather, as Julian's biography that begins from age six is spread out in front of you.
He is based in London, and is home on a short trip. Julian has been away from home for 11 years now, going first to the UK after his tenth grade. "It was through a couple — Dr Celestine John and Linda John — who were looking for a piano for a charity concert in Thiruvananthapuram. That's how they contact my dad," Julian says. The dad asked the Johns, 'Why don't you listen to my son play?' They listened and they liked it so much the Johns invited Julian to stay with them for a couple of months. So young Julian left for Mansfield in the summer of 2004. He happened to play at the Mansfield Music and Drama Festival and met someone who was going to the Chetham's School of Music in Manchester. So Julian went there and later to the Royal Northern College of Music for his degree and post graduation in music, specialising in western classical performance.
Julian then took an artist's diploma, with focus on piano performance, thus spending about eight years in Manchester before moving to London. In all this time, he managed to attend many prestigious music fests and shows. He performed at the Buckingham Palace, was invited to Beethoven's house in Bonn by legendary pianist Sir Andras Schiff for a master class, and invited as soloist with the London Philharmonia, leading professional symphony orchestra, and so on.
Willy would tell you all this and about the invitation Julian got to Anton Dvorak International Music Festival in Prague. The dad, you can see, has always been the driving force. At six, when Julian began learning the piano from his dad, he was not all that keen. The real interest came when he was about 10. At 12, he did a 12 hour marathon. Among his achievements is also an RNCM Gold Medal that his mother Lizzy brings in a little red box.
After all the talk, Julian slips off to his piano, back to Chopin's notes. He is learning it all by heart, Willy says, to play with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra on November 5. He enjoys interpreting the work of greats like Frederic Chopin, Julian, who is also a teacher, says. He will go back to London Saturday. He has to, for opportunities. In India, like Willy says, western classical music gets very little recognition.