Vol. VIII No. 7 - Tuesday
February 17 - February 23, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Art, Music & Culture • Entertainment • Lifestyles
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Breathless with adoration

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – A Little Night Music


Breathless with adoration

The Chiang Mai Music Festival 2552

‘Breathless with adoration’ – words written over 200 years ago by the great British Poet Laureate William Wordsworth, in a sonnet entitled “It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free” – and how apt they are to describe the Fourth Chiang Mai Music Festival, held in various locations over the first week of February.

Dr. Duentemduang na Chiengmai, a Mayor with vision and commitment, greets her guests at the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre performance on February 6.
Schoolchildren, adults of many nationalities, civic dignitaries and visitors to this great city were all enthralled by the magic and sparkle of the talented young pianists this year. Three of them came from Korea – Seol-Hwa Kim, just fifteen years old, and two sixteen year olds, Song-I Jeong and You-Min Shin – and they were joined by a doctorate student from Japan, Yoko Kakishita, who is in her early twenties. All the performances by these young and gifted musicians throughout this marvellous event in the cultural calendar of Chiang Mai were immaculate. What talent, energy, dedication and devotion these young people showed us as they worked their way through a very tight schedule of private and public recitals, receptions and dinners all within a week. The music flowed like nectar – from the magnificent chords of the Liszt Don Juan through the rippling watery effects of the Chopin Barcarolle into the passionate and triumphant Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, not to mention many others works by Schumann, Greig and von Gluck, this latter featuring the pleasant sounds of the flute played by Xavier Vichitporn.

Seol-kwa Kim from South Korea, just15 years old, plays Franz Listz’s fiendishly difficult ‘Don Juan Fantasy’.
This festival, organized by Anne Murase and her husband Kazuyoshi, with the festival’s musical director, the much loved and talented Korean professor of  music, Tong-Il Han, distinguished teacher and respected performer, is a real gem for the people of Chiang Mai and beyond. Two schools were fortunate enough to host the four talented musicians who performed for children aged between four and eighteen. The Yamaha School of Music provided the pianos which were put into excellent use by the pianists. Professor Tong-Il Han was joined by one of his colleagues, Professor Jung-Hwa Hur and, along with the four young performers, what a formidable team they made. The music they created for us was delightful, forceful, amazingly intricate and beautiful but above all played with a dedication that almost surpasses belief. Professor Tong-Il Han radiates a passion for music that creates an aura of spirituality around him and which has rubbed off on his students.

Pianists at play… at an evening hosted by Chiang Mai Municipality.
On a beautiful calm evening in the delightful courtyard of the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre, with a bright moon shining overhead, we were treated to a rich variety of the most romantic and challenging classical music ever written. Our performers excelled themselves as they showed us the true meaning of dedication, devotion and commitment. Their stage presence was wonderful to witness and their understand of the rich harmonies and subtle nuances of European music was quite extraordinary. The same was true of the three piano concerti that were performed with their professors at the delightful Ban Wangtan stage in a magical setting by the lake with lanterns and flowers galore to enhance the scene. The concerti by Greig, Chopin and Tchaikovsky were transposed into amazing adaptations for two pianos, the solo part remaining unchanged while the second piano provided what would normally be the orchestral accompaniment. And how great the sounds were and how naturally and seemingly effortlessly our performers played. But those of us who play any instrument know differently – that such playing is a labour of love and that is just what came across throughout the festival. With demonstrations and master-classes involving the Yamaha School of Music and Payap University Youth Program, the festival provides a unique opportunity for us to witness and enjoy music making of the highest calibre without any hint of competitiveness or other issues. It is simply pure and passionate love of music at its best. With a repeat performance in Bangkok of the first concert of romantic piano music, this has been a superb experience for all of us who managed to get to hear these young people and their teachers. The Liszt Don Juan ends with a fantasy on one of the most celebrated arias from the original Mozart opera Don Giovanni, known as ‘the champagne aria.’ And that just about sums up this festival – an astonishingly sparkling, bubbling and refreshing tonic leaving us all breathless with adoration and admiration for these fine and talented young performers and their teachers.

The four Korean and Japanese pianists take their bows to rapturous applause at the end of the Chiang Mai Music Festival’s concert at the city’s Arts and Cultural Centre.

Professor Tong-il Han enjoys a relaxing meal
and lots of laughter with his students and friends.


Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – A Little Night Music

When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his celebrated String Serenade No. 13 in G major, K.525, I wonder if he ever thought that a little of his ‘night music’ might be heard over 200 years later in a place called Thailand, somewhere he may never even have heard of at that time. Well, thanks to the wonderful generosity and kindness of Anne Elizabeth Murase and her husband Kazuyoshi, on two separate occasions recently, Thais and foreign residents of Chiang Mai met at the Murase home to hear a little night music. Housed in their delightful salon, complete with grand piano, the first recital was a preview of the Nocturnes and Barcarolles that Dr Bennett Lerner and his mezzo-soprano colleague Sheilagh Angpiroj were to perform the following evening at Payap University, recently reviewed in this paper. The audience was privileged to be present and hear the Faure song cycle La Bonne Chanson and several piano pieces by the same composer and his contemporary Reynaldo Hahn. Delightful, enchanting, romantic and so reminiscent of the Paris salons where this music was often first performed, the atmosphere and ambience were perfect.
The second occasion was the end of the Fourth Chiang Mai Music Festival when once again, a group of Thais and foreign guests were guests of the gracious Murase family and were enchanted by the piano playing of the festival’s musical director, Professor Tong-Il Han and his colleague, Professor Jung-Hwa Hur. Professor Tong-Il Han opened the short performance with a delightfully romantic interpretation of one of Chopin’s early nocturnes, his fingers seeming to dance across the keyboard as the velvety tones of the melody pervaded the room. Then came the real treat – arranged for two pianos, we were enraptured by an idyllic performance of the andante from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, K467, played with tremendous feeling by the two distinguished professors on separate grand pianos. The music is, of course, well known and is often referred to as ‘Elvira Madigan’ after the film of that name in which this delectable composition featured. Nothing could have been more apt that night than to be enchanted by this nostalgically poignant and profoundly beautiful melody, played so tenderly and with such admirable phraseology and understanding. Outside, a full moon beamed down on the audience as they sat in the garden later and enjoyed a delicious buffet; what could have been more perfect, more apt or more fitting than an evening like this? How grateful and indebted we all must feel to the generosity, kindness and humanity of our hosts, Anne and Kazuyoshi for providing us with such an excellent experience. How fitting an occasion to recall the words of the Chinese poet Mong-Kao-Jen, set to music by Gustav Mahler in Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde – “Oh look how the moon is sailing like a silver bark on the blue lake of heaven” – thank you for providing us, the audience, with that blue lake of heaven as we were captivated by the magical night music so perfectly performed by our distinguished and much loved musicians.

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