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Under the spotlight Sek Thongsuwan

Danzon at the Kad Theatre


Under the spotlight Sek Thongsuwan

By Jai-Pee

Last year this twenty-five year old pianist delighted the large audience at Payap University with an interesting and dynamic recital that was a fusion of jazzy sounds, traditional Thai style then dominated by solid classical pieces that were played with great panache. Sek will be returning to Chiang Mai on July 30th to present a similar recital for the Friends of the Chiang Mai Music Festival, with a limited number of guest seats available.

Sek hails from Phayao but has been studying at Mahidol University for several years and more recently at the prestigious St. Petersburg Academy in Russia where he is in the middle of completing his Master’s Degree – a long five year haul – and in fact, he is the first Thai person to study piano there, following in the footsteps of an extensive line of prominent and celebrated musicians, including Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Sek started his musical career as a rock guitarist before switching to the piano as his ‘serious’ instrument when he was seventeen. He is studying in St. Petersburg with Professor Tatiana Zagorovskaya, herself a distinguished Russian musician and winner of several international piano competitions. He has won several awards while in Russia including Best Piano Performer in Yaroslavi in 2004 where he also received a diploma as Concert Master in 2006. He is a prolific performer, giving frequent recitals in the Rachmaninoff school and Glazunov Hall, St. Petersburg, as well as the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. Before playing in the uniquely beautiful music salon at the Murase home in Chiang Mai he will give two performances of the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto at Mahidol University with their symphony orchestra. Almost naturally, his recital on July 30th will include several pieces by Rachmaninoff.

Sek is a lover of Bach and Mozart and he finds the Mozart orchestral works, especially the symphonies, wonderful pieces which help him to relax and calm down. He still likes to listen to rock guitarists, especially John Petrucci from Dream Theatre and the infamous Gary Moore. Coming from a non-musical family, he has made giant steps forward during the last few years and Sek now likes to transcribe some music himself for performance in his recitals. These pieces, including one by HM King Bhumibol, will be featured in the recital on the 30th along with other pieces by Debussy, Mozart, Scriabin and Chopin. Sek will also present a Master Class at 10.00 am on Saturday 31st July at the Santi School of Music, full details of this and the main recital available from JP on 084 868 1017.


Danzon at the Kad Theatre

Lively concert by the Chiang Mai Youth Philharmonic Band

By Brian Baxter

There are scores of enjoyable concerts in Chiang Mai throughout the year, even some spectacularly fine ones by resident soloists and visitors. But surely none of them offers more exuberant fun and pleasurable playing than that offered by the (mainly) young players of the City’s ‘Youth Philharmonic Band’ and – when they join them - the Symphony Orchestra.

Their latest high spirited performance was on Friday, 2nd July at the cavernous Kad Theatre. Thanks to better publicity than usual (and in spite of competition from the never ending football matches) there was a respectably large and appreciative audience to enjoy the programme which concentrated on dance rhythms from a variety of world cultures and was designed ‘to keep our hearts dancing’. The concert took its title from the exuberant work by Arturo Marquez, Danzon 2, which brought the show to a rousing climax.

There were two conductors at the helm, the music director of the Band and Orchestra, Chaipruk Mekara and guest conductor from America (though happily for us resident for the summer as a lecturer at Payap University) Daniel Pittman. The ‘opener’ was a brief, energetic work called ‘Nitro’, by American Frank Ticheli, which he composed with the idea that it might launch such evenings.

The first part of the evening concluded with a substantial composition, the Trumpet Concerto in A-Flat Major by the Armenian Alexander Arutiunian, which we were told was influenced by folk tunes of the country. The talented and forceful soloist was Jakaphan Chaiya, who held our interest through a slightly over extended work, which divided into three sections rather than movements, with a beautiful and muted central section surrounded by virtuoso writing.

After an interval we were on more familiar ground with Dimitri Shostakovitch’s popular Jazz Suite No. 2, with the charming waltz movements in the middle. This six part work blends jazz elements within several of the short dance based sections, which reveal another side of the Russian composer to the monumental symphonies and string quartets which represent his greatest achievements.

Final works of the good humoured evening (the band dress in attractive outfits, different for each instrumental group and are youthfully informal in manner though always attentive to the music) were a group of Broadway songs arranged by Warren Benson, A Biker Girl by Jaran Manopet and Danzon which has been specially arranged for a wind band from the original work by its Mexican composer by the German Oliver Nickel.

If only the Kad Theatre could be used more regularly by these players and others to utilise its spectacular space!