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Arts - Entertainment

A Long Weekend of Fabulous Music

By Jai Pee
It was the first weekend in November and it came to be a memorable and outstanding few days of musical events both here in Chiang Mai and in Bangkok. The Friends of Music Making in Chiang Mai played host to the dynamic duo of violinist Tasana Nagavajara and piano accompanist Pornphan Banternghansa.

Violinist Tasana Nagavajara visited Chiang Mai to perform with piano accompanist Pornphan Banternghansa and Professor Roland Baldini at the Santi School of Music.

Arriving in Chiang Mai, these exceptionally talented musicians were accompanied by an equally outstanding musician friend, Professor Roland Baldini, late of Leipzig University, a distinguished violin and viola player and regular visitor to the Kingdom. After a welcoming lunch at the Ming Muang restaurant when a dozen members of the Friend’s group were present, two sensational recitals were held at Santi’s Music School on the Saturday and Sunday evenings – both recitals were well over-subscribed and Tasana and Pornphan played to a very crowded and enthusiastic audience. The recitals were preceded by lectures shared between JP and Roland Baldini - but it was the music that counted and inspired the audiences on those two memorable evenings.

The first piece the couple had chosen to play was the Brahms Violin Sonata No 1 – known as the ‘Regensonate’ or Rain Sonata. The work was played beautifully, with Tasana capturing so eloquently the long melodic phrases, accentuating the lyrical nature of these passages and bringing a tear to many an eye. Pornphan’s accompaniment was nothing short of miraculous as she reinforced the lyricism of the main melodies with her persuasive and firm fingering. These two are world-class professionals of the very highest caliber and their immaculate playing on both nights proved this without a doubt. Yet even better was to come as they launched into the rarely heard Prokofiev Second Violin Sonata. This interesting and rhythmic treat was played with energy, spirit and panache. Written in 1942/3, the sonata was transposed at the behest of world famous violinist David Oistrakh from a flute sonata and first performed a year later. The performance we heard in Chiang Mai was perfect – and it is no simple task to play this challenging and difficult work – yet Tasana and Pornphan made it look and sound so simple as they tackled the lyrical passages with resolute firmness and the highly rhythmic sections with unwavering and phenomenal mastery.
Following this on the Monday night in the Thailand National Theatre in Bangkok came a performance of the reconstructed Mahler 10th symphony. Mahler died in May 1911 and apart from the nearly-completed opening movement, all that remained were notes, jottings and sketches. But it was enough for British musicologist Deryck Cooke in the 1960s to reconstruct and present the musical world with a complete work – and Maestro Somtow, in full form, with his youthful and forceful Siam Philharmonic Orchestra, gave the Kingdom its wonderful premiere of the piece to an enthusiastic audience. This was only the 90th professional performance of the symphony worldwide and what a performance it was – the orchestra astounded – they played so determinedly, so devotedly and with such incredible understanding of Mahler’s intentions that it was almost impossible to reconcile their youthfulness with the maturity of the symphony. Maestro Somtow had rehearsed his orchestra to perfection – the playing throughout was a joy to the ears – the precision and clarity of the brass and woodwind, the evenness and persuasiveness of the strings (on great form), the marvelous and sensitive percussion – all combined to make this a most memorable and remarkable occasion. Everyone involved is to be congratulated on this unique and illustrious performance, part of which can be seen on Youtube by following the link:
So a weekend of Brahms, Mahler and Prokofiev, all played with the utmost professionalism, made it hard to believe at times that we are in Thailand – it is a magnificent achievement to witness such great classics being performed here with equal standing to performances elsewhere in the world. It says a lot for the dedication and professionalism of musicians such as Pornphan, Somtow and Tasana who are leading this country into a great musical future, supported by young orchestras that have already grasped the essentials of first class classical performance. What a long but rewarding weekend it was!!

The Prints of Dean Pongdej

To be or not to be

Dr. Pongdej Chaiyakut with his favorite print, forcing people to look at themselves and the way the label the world around them.

By Shana Kongmun
Dr. Pongdej Chaiyakut is a hardworking man. Not only is he the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts for Chiang Mai University, a lecturer, and omnipresent on the arts scene but he has produced an astonishing array of 80 woodblock prints, each painstakingly handcarved.
Dr. Pongdej’s exhibition, currently on display in the back hall of the CMU Art Center ranges from Brueghel-esque scenes to starkly realistic images of modern day life in Thailand. The images range from a startling realistic portrait of a pair of flip-flop clad feet under a table to roosters and mangy dogs. He posed in front of his favorite, a rather graphic rear end depiction of a mangy dog. “I want people to see their reflection in this,” he said. He quoted a phrase in Thai which refers to the dog’s hind end and said, this is a phrase that Thai people use about others, I want them to look at this print and see their own reflection in it.”
His works force us to look at those things we tend to overlook, to view those things we often prefer not to see. The exhibition, titled “To be or not to be” is on show until November 30 and well worth the visit.

Jazz for Better Days

The acapella singers entranced the audience with their harmonies.

By Shana Kongmun
The outstanding display of musicianship of Chiang Mai’s talented denizens was on display at the CMU Art Museum Theater on November 4, 2012 as part of a charitable fundraiser to support the music program at the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center in Chiang Mai.
More than a few of the very well-known names and faces of the Chiang Mai music scene were on hand to donate their time and talent to the fundraiser and included blues musician Boy as well as the very popular Kim of Del Ritmo fame along with students from the Woranan School of Music and Chiang Mai “jazz guru” Teh Intaranan and Indara Nan Nan or Ajarn Kick.
The show was a great display of local talent, many of whom will be performing at the Chiang Mai Jazz Fest, and a great cause to raise funds to help troubled kids.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

A Long Weekend of Fabulous Music

The Prints of Dean Pongdej

Jazz for Better Days