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Mozart’s 40th, a Far Cry pick, pops up in Asia

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 (K. 550), which A Far Cry, the Boston-based chamber orchestra, will perform at Jordan hall on Friday, has, in recent years, been turning up in Asian pop music; both 2004’s “Tri-Angle,” by Korean boy band TVXQ, and 2005’s “Don’t Want to Grow Up,” by Taiwanese girl band S.H.E., borrow the symphony’s minatory opening theme. But both are merely echoing the example of Indian writer and composer Salil Chowdhury.

Mozart’s 40th forms the basis of “Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha,” the biggest hit from Chowdhury’s score for the 1961 film “Chhaya,” a drama of love and class, centered around the forbidden romance between a poor tutor and the wealthy young woman he has been hired to teach. “Don’t love me too much,” the tutor sings, to a Bollywood gloss on Mozart’s tune, “for I am a wandering cloud.”


Caste and inequity were fertile subjects for Chowdhury (1922-1995), who got his start with the leftist, anti-colonialist Indian People’s Theatre Association. But he was also enamored of Western classical music, both in substance — the title music for “Chhaya” also makes use of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” — and style. Traditionalists scoffed; Chowdhury didn’t care. “We must realize that the modern Indian composer has around him a way of life, sights and sounds, aims and ideals entirely different from what his ancestors had,” Chowdhury wrote. “Art has always changed according to its own needs.”

A Far Cry (www.afarcry.org) presents “Vienna Postcards” Friday, May 24, at 8 p.m. in Jordan Hall.

Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at matthewguerrieri