music connects

Fabulous Five in Jomtien

(review)

(l-r) Cooper Wright, Inga Causa, Mahakit Leardcheewanan, Marcin Szawelski and Danny Keasler. (Photo: Ben Hansen)

 

by Colin Kaye

 

For the second time in recent months The Salaya Ensemble, this time in the form of a quintet, made another highly successful appearance at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien. The response from the audience was warm and enthusiastic and one of the listeners described it as “a marvelous night of exceptional music-making”. The standard was remarkably high and wouldn’t have been out of place in an international concert hall. The Salaya Quintet is made up of key members of the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, arguably the finest orchestra in the country. They include Cooper Wright (oboe), Inga Causa and Mahakit Leardcheewanan (violins), Danny Keasler (viola) and Marcin Szawelski (cello).

 

The start of the concert rather caught me by surprise because the first work, a Mozart oboe quintet, appeared to have a player missing and didn’t really sound much like Mozart. It slowly dawned on me that the programme order had been changed and we were actually listening to a quartet by Carl Stamitz. I suspect some other members of the audience might have been equally bewildered. Stamitz, who had a riches-to-rags life story was one of the most influential of the Mannheim School of composers. His Quartet in D minor Op. 8 No. 1 appeared in 1773 and was written in the so-called gallant style in which simplicity and elegance were the order of the day. The finely-judged instrumental balance was remarkable throughout the work, the rich and sonorous string tone contrasting perfectly with Cooper Wright’s warm and focused oboe sound. There was some beautiful playing and sensitive timing in the aria-like second movement, and the bustling finale with its answering phrases and contrapuntal devices was given a sprightly and exuberant performance.  

 

Mozart’s Oboe Quintet in C minor began life as a serenade for wind instruments.  In 1788 he transcribed it for strings and later made yet another arrangement for oboe and string quartet. The substantial first movement was given a confident performance with superb articulation and careful regard for dynamic contrast. The lyrical Andante is delightful with its sumptuous harmonies and made even more so by the accomplishment playing and the expressive “placing” of the notes. The sensitivity and quality of the performance reminded me of the enormous chasm that lies between a good amateur musician and a professional one. It also reminded me of Debussy’s thought-provoking remark that “music is the space between the notes”.

 

After the interval the audience was treated to Mozart’s delightful Adagio for Cor Anglais and String Trio. The cor anglais is an alto oboe with a characteristic pear-shaped bell and I was impressed with Cooper Wright’s exceptionally warm and radiant tone quality on the instrument. He gave a sensitive and thoughtful performance of this charming aria-like work and was ably supported by sonorous string tone.

 

I was particularly taken with the radiant performance of Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade for String Quartet which made a delightful contrast. It’s an optimistic work, full of colour and Italian sunshine with several unexpected touches of humour. I’d played the work once as a student cellist, but I’d completely forgotten about the many tricky passages to negotiate. The Salaya players, confidently led by Inga Causa gave a stylish performance with an impeccable sense of ensemble, compelling timing, control of dynamics and an expressive cello solo from Marcin Szawelski.

 

The last item on the programme was the three-movement Quintet for Oboe and Strings by the English composer Sir Arthur Bliss. It’s a bittersweet work which moves from a pastoral setting at the start to more lively and dance-like music shifting through shades of colour and mood, sometimes playful, sometimes wistful and sometimes dramatic. Perhaps for these reasons, apart from getting all the notes in the right place, it’s quite a challenging quintet to perform. It was clear that The Salaya Quintet had put a huge amount of work into the rehearsals. As usual, the string tone was impressive and throughout the work the blending of the individual instruments was impeccable. The sense of Englishness was noticeable in the second movement with its shades of Delius and the technically-demanding third movement brought the work firmly into the twentieth century. The musicians handled the difficulties of this movement (which contains a vivacious Irish sort of jig) with tremendous aplomb and received a well-deserved and enthusiastic ovation from the audience. The concert brought the current season of events at Ben’s Theater to a triumphant close.

“Originally published in the Pattaya Mail on 10th March 2017. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd”.

FLTR: Pijarin (Kaykay) Wiriyasakdakul, Duangamorn (Wenlin) Fu, Ben Hansen, Thanaporn (Tip) Pramweang and pianist Yoshimi Sato.

 

Sensational Sopranos

By Colin Kaye

 

From the first few notes of the Pastorale by Camille Saint-Saëns, it was clear that the audience at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien were in for an exceptional evening. Thanaporn Promweang (Tip) and Duangamorn Fu (Wenlin) performed the duet with perfect intonation, a superb blending of voices and charming stage presence. Despite the fact that this was the first number of the concert it was to my mind at least, one of the highlights of the evening. Both Tip and Wenlin have fine vocal tone quality with perfectly judged and virtually synchronized vibrato producing a richly focused sound.

 

Pijarin Wiriyasakdakul (Kaykay) then took the stage with a telling performance of Richard Strauss’s lyrical song Die Nacht. She too produced splendid tone quality and has excellent intonation. She also has a commanding stage presence and seemed to enjoy her warm and confident contact with the audience. The three singers seemed to have much in common: confident stage deportment, finely focused and resonant tone quality and a tasteful use of vibrato. I began to think that these talented singers probably have the same voice teacher. Later in the evening, Ben Hansen confirmed that they are all students of Professor Nancy Tsui-Ping Wei of the Classical Voice Department at Mahidol University’s College of Music. That explained it.

 

The duets were probably the highlights of the concert because the voices were so perfectly blended and balanced. Kaykay and Wenlin gave a remarkable performance of two Mendelssohn songs, Abendlied and the more well-known Auf Flügeln des Gesange. Their voices matched each other perfectly and their sense of phrasing and clear German diction was impressive. It was becoming obvious that these singers have much experience behind them. Kaykay started singing at the age of thirteen and was later admitted to Mahidol’s Pre-College Music Program. During the following years she was a recipient of the College’s scholarship awards. In 2014 she won prizes at both the Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition in New York and the Osaka International Music Competition in Japan. Last year, Kaykay succeeded among four hundred candidates to become a semi-finalist in the International Singing Competition of Toulouse in France.

 

Wenlin began studying piano at the age of four and singing at seven. When in junior high school she was awarded Silver Prize in the Settrade Youth Music Competition. In the following year, she was accepted in the Pre-College program at the Mahidol’s College of Music. In 2014 she started voice tuition there and the following year was a finalist in the Osaka International Music Competition.

 

Tip presented a confident and poised performance of Fauré’s Clair de Lune. Tip has a splendid stage presence and seems to have a natural ability to connect with the audience. Like Wenlin, she started music lessons at the age of four. She began singing lessons at seventeen and has performed at the Music Auditorium at Mahidol’s College of Music and at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre. Tip has received a number of prizes in recent years including gold medals in singing competitions. She brought a compelling sense of drama to Mozart’s aria In Uomini, in soldati.

 

Kaykay’s rich and finely focused tone quality was evident in Debussy’s well-known song Nuit d’étoiles. Another highlight of the evening was the Saint-Saëns Ave Maria, a duet sung by Kaykay and Wenlin. Their voices blended perfectly and the intonation was remarkably accurate with a fine sense of ensemble. They were ably supported by pianist Yoshimi Sato who provided beautifully sensitive piano accompaniments throughout the concert. She is an official accompanist at Mahidol’s College of Music and is accompanist of the Kita-Kyushu City Kokura Junior Chorus in Japan. She began her piano lessons at the age of five and later attended Musashino Music Academy in Tokyo where she graduating with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance.

 

Frühlingsstimmen (“Voices of Spring”) by Johann Strauss II is a well-known orchestral waltz with optional soprano. It’s a technically demanding work requiring an agile voice and Kaykay gave a remarkable performance of the piece with its florid melody and tricky staccato passages. Her singing brought an enraptured response from the audience. 

 

While the first half of the well-planned programme was mostly French and German art songs, the second half was devoted to opera arias and duets. Tip and Wenlin gave a confident performance of Ah Guarda Sorella from Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” while another highlight was Kaykay and Tip’s performance of the Barcarolle from “The Tales of Hoffmann”. It was a splendid performance of the well-known piece. I especially enjoyed Kaykay’s singing of Dvořák’s Song to the Moon. She gave a sensitive performance of the song, her voice literally floating above Yoshimi’s delicate piano accompaniment. The final number of the evening was a confident performance of Humperdinck’s Evening Prayer from “Hansel and Gretel”. There was some beautifully controlled singing from the three sopranos and the piece - moving in its simplicity - brought the concert to a delightful close.

 

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail on 3rd March 2017. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd”.

FLTR: Yossral Songkiatkul, Varissara Tanakom, Vannophat Kaploykeo

 

Spectacles at Ben’s Theater

by Colin Kaye

 

The Bangkok-based Brille Trio made its first appearance recently at Ben’s Theater Jomtien, playing a challenging programme of fascinating music. The Trio has been together for the last couple of years and performed at the Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre and also at the College of Music at Mahidol University. It’s made up of three young and exceptionally talented musicians, all of whom wear spectacles. The word for spectacles in German is brille, hence the name.

 

The concert opened with the Suite No. 1 in G major by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the six he wrote for unaccompanied cello.  Every student cellist encounters these suites sooner or later and the first is the best known. Vannophat Kaploykeo has a rich, powerful cello tone and the first movement, with its arpeggio-like open string patterns emphasizes the sonority of the instrument. The second and third movements, an allemande and a courante were fluently played and the slow sarabande was exceptionally telling; a lovely performance with careful and sensitive use of rubato. I was also impressed with the two neatly-performed minuets in which Vannophat used contrast of tone, dynamics and phrasing. He seemed to emphasize the rustic quality of the lively, energetic final movement.

 

Vannophat began cello lessons at the age of ten with Yukihisa Nakagawa and is currently a student of Juris Lakutis, principal cellist of the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra. Vannophat was chosen as principal cellist of the Salaya Chamber Orchestra during the spring 2015 season and he won First Prize at the Princess Galyani Vaddhana International String Ensemble Competition. He made a previous visit to Ben’s Theater last year with the talented Tour de Trio. He will shortly be starting his studies in Barcelona under a five-month Erasmus Plus scholarship, a European Union student exchange programme.

 

Varissara Tanakom was the next to take the stage, with a remarkably beautiful performance of the Meditation from the opera “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet, a piece that has become more well-known than the opera itself. Varissara has a lovely singing, delicate violin tone and produces a beautiful sound especially on the lowest string of the instrument. Her intonation is accurate and she has a fine control of phrasing and dynamics. Varissara is also a graduate of the College of Music at Mahidol University and majored in Classical Music Performance. She has performed with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Siam Sinfonietta and the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

Vannophat played Le Cygne from “Le Carnaval des Animaux” by Camille Saint-Saëns. This is every cellist’s party piece and the penultimate movement of the famous and amusing zoological suite. Vannophat provided a lovely performance of the work and the slow melody showed his beautifully controlled cello tone. Intonation as usual was spot-on and his playing confident and expressive.

 

The piano accompaniments to both the Massenet and the Saint-Saëns pieces were provided by Yossral Songkiatkul who is not only a sympathetic accompanist but seems to have an intuitive sense of timing. He’s also a graduate of the College of Music at Mahidol University. He has already completed his Bachelor of Music, majoring in piano performance and is currently studying for his Master of Music in conducting. He was one of the five finalists of Conrad Young Musician of Thailand Competition.

 

Après un Rêve by Gabriel Fauré is actually one of the composer’s best-loved songs but the Brille Trio performed an effective instrumental arrangement by the Japanese pianist and composer Akira Eguchi. The young musicians provided a delightful performance of the work and Vannophat’s quiet cello tone near the beginning of the work was particularly expressive. Both Varissara (violin) and Yossral (piano) played beautifully and the sense of ensemble was excellent. I especially enjoyed the confident and resonant support from the piano.

 

The second half of the concert began with the Suite for Solo Cello by Gaspar Cassadó. Like the Bach suite, the work begins with an improvisatory-style prelude followed by dance movements. But Cassadó adds something more: the local colours of his native Spain. Vannophat gave a superb reading of this difficult work. The first movement uses the entire range of the instrument and includes extremely high notes known as harmonics, which Vannophat played faultlessly. The second movement, with its catchy Spanish folk melodies was especially well performed. The last movement has a lyrical introduction with finely timed pizzicato chords and the fast concluding section with its echoes of Shostakovich was rhythmic and energetic. This work contains many technical challenges but Vannophat gave a superb performance throughout and brought out the intensely Spanish flavour of the music.

 

The concert ended with the rarely-played composition for piano trio by Joaquin Turina. Entitled Círculo, it dates from 1936 and is based on the recurring cycle of dawn, midday and dusk. It was the composer’s last composition before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and the Brille Trio gave a superb performance of the work, bringing out the intensely lyrical qualities of the music with rich and powerful string tone and fine piano playing. The music is intensely Spanish in flavour with plenty of local colour and the performance displayed a wonderful sense of ensemble and precision. The audience was visibly impressed by the professional and confident playing of these enormously talented young musicians.

“Originally published in the Pattaya Mail on 3rd February 2017. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd”.

 

 

 

 

 

(l-r) Saran Senavanin (Rain), Auranus Yuenyonghattaporn (Jing), with pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm. 

 

Review of concert at Ben’s Theater 26th November 2016

 

A Night of Vocal Classics

by Colin Kaye

 

A friendly and enthusiastic audience welcomed members of Grand Opera Thailand to a concert at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien recently. They included Auranus Yuenyonghattaporn (soprano), Saran Senavanin (baritone) together with pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm.  Saran (Rain) opened the programme with the aria Et in Spiritum sanctum from Bach’s Mass in B minor and it was clear that his voice has grown in strength since his last appearance here. He seems more confident too and his assured performance of this rather challenging aria was well received. I was impressed by his accurate intonation and careful phrasing. Of course, Rain is no stranger to Ben’s Theater and has appeared there many times. He began his professional career six years ago with Opera Siam and played key roles in Bizet’s “Carmen” and in Puccini’s “Tosca”. In 2012, he performed in Somtow Sucharitkul’s opera, “Mae Naak” at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. This year, he is a featured artist with the Japan-America Institute for New Music.

The Bach aria was followed by three delightful songs by Gabriel Fauré. Les Roses d’Ispahan was composed in 1885 and it’s one of the composer’s best-known songs. Auranus (Jing) captivated the audience with a charming performance. Her voice was perfect for this song - a beautiful, delicate sound with bell-like clarity and spot-on intonation. Fauré’s well-known Au Bord de l’eau comes from an early set of songs and Rain gave a confident performance with a smooth transition into the high register in which he produces a lovely tone quality. This was also noticeable in Clair de Lune, another popular song by Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine and once described as “the quintessential French melody”. The ever-reliable Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm provided beautifully lyrical accompaniments.

Jing gave a superb reading of two songs by Robert Schumann composed in 1840. Die Lotusblume is a popular recital piece with a delicate and sustained melody. Jing’s top notes are delightfully clear and perfectly in tune and in Der Nussbaum her finely-controlled voice with its gorgeous tone quality seemed to float effortlessly above Morakot’s beautifully phrased and sympathetic piano accompaniment. For me, this was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the evening.

Richard Strauss is known especially for his operas and orchestral tone poems. He was also a fine song-writer and the concert included several examples beginning with Morgen! which dates from 1894. Performed by Rain with commendable German diction, his sotto voce tone was finely controlled and expressive. Once again, pianist Morakot demonstrated his remarkable ability to switch effortlessly from one musical style to another. Jing gave a compelling reading of Allerseelen, the last in a collection of eight songs written in 1885. She brought a great sense of drama and contrast to the song and the last phrase was especially lovely. There were some charming moments in her performance of Die Nacht.

Jing gave her first performance in Pattaya last year at the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at Phornprapha Botanic Gardens. She has won prizes at the RSU vocal competition at Rangsit University and at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn French Song Competition.  She starred in both “Ghost Opera the Musical” at Mahidol University and played the principal character in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”. 

The recital at Ben’s gave Jing the opportunity to shine. Her singing of Bellini’s Vaga Luna was touchingly beautiful and to my mind at least, as near perfect as you can get. With sensitive piano playing it was another of the evening’s highlights. There was a lovely performance of Debussy’s 1880 song, Nuit d’étoiles with its soaring melody and rich harmonies. Her singing of Deh Vieni, non tardar from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” had excellent characterization, clear high notes and a finely articulated piano accompaniment from Morakot. He’s a fine concert pianist in his own right and has won prizes in the Yamaha Thailand Music Festival and in the Bangkok Chopin Piano Competition. He has recently completed his Bachelor Degree in Composition from Mahidol University.

In complete contrast to the Mozart, Rain sang another Richard Strauss aria Lieben, Hassen, Zagen from his 1912 opera “Ariadne auf Naxos”. He gave a powerful, declamatory and compelling performance. As an encore, he also sang the much-loved song by Poulenc, Les Chemins de l’Amour which dates from 1940 though seems to evoke the Paris of twenty years earlier. Rain gave a telling performance, with a fine sense of phrasing and timing. It was yet another highlight of the concert which culminated in an encore duet, Lippen Schweigen from Franz Lehár’s opera “The Merry Widow”, bringing the evening to a joyous conclusion.

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

 

 

Review of concert at Ben’s Theater 20th November 2016

Sparkling Playing at Ben’s Theatre

by Colin Kaye

It was virtually a packed house at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien recently for what turned out to be one of the most successful concerts ever held there. It featured four of the top musicians from the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, considered by many to be the finest orchestra in the Kingdom. The Salaya Ensemble consists of oboist Cooper Wright (Solo Principal Oboe), violinist Inga Causa (Acting Concertmaster), Dr Danny Keasler (Principal Viola) and Marcin Szawelski (Co-Principal Cello). With talent like this there was enormous anticipation and excitement among the concert-goers gathered in Jomtien. They were not disappointed.

 

The programme items were performed in chronological order ranging from a work composed in the mid-1770s to a piece written in 2016 – last month to be precise. The concert opened with a performance of Johann Christian Bach’s elegant and graceful Quartet in B flat major. John Christian was one of the sons of Johann Sebastian and often known as “The London Bach” because he lived there for many years. The Salaya Quartet impressed with their sheer quality of sound, beautiful singing oboe tone and a rich sonorous sound from the strings.  Oboist Cooper Wright brought a sense of joy to the first movement with its wealth of melody and cleverly written answering phrases between the instruments. The second movement, an elegant rondo was especially rewarding and included an attractive solo passage for viola, beautifully played by Danny Keasler. 

 

Mozart’s Oboe Quartet K.370 dates from1781 and it’s the most well-known oboe quartet in the repertoire. It contains many of Mozart’s favourite musical trade-marks: twists of harmony, wide melodic leaps, unexpected accents, skillfully written counterpoint and elements of surprise. Cooper’s oboe playing was superb throughout, despite the technical challenges of the piece and there was some fine string playing. The sense of ensemble was excellent, the four players blending their sounds together perfectly. I suspect that many non-musicians don’t realise how much personal practising and group rehearsal goes into the making of a concert performance. It became clear that these four fine musicians had spent a considerable time doing just that. The gently lilting slow movement of Mozart’s quartet was beautifully played and the sprightly third movement was brilliant with its virtuosic oboe part. Several times Mozart writes a top F for the oboe - the highest note available on the instrument in the eighteenth century. Even today, oboists consider the top F a bit tricky. Cooper played these high notes with superb tone and control. The balance between the instruments was perfect and the inner parts clearly audible. The acoustic at Ben’s Theater is ideal for music of this sort: the room is large enough for a decent-sized audience yet small enough to preserve the intimate nature of chamber music.

 

Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Serenade for String Trio in D major between 1796 and 1797. During the late eighteenth century, composers wrote serenades and divertimenti to satisfy the needs of the courts at which background music was necessary for social events. Little is known of the origins of this work but by the usual standards of the serenade, this one is quite complex, even puzzling at times.  The string players performed the third movement of the Serenade which gave them the opportunity to shine. I was impressed by the beautiful string tone, the fine articulation in the faster sections and the delicate expressive playing. The movement alternates between a wistful, passionate melody tellingly played by Inga (violin) and Danny (viola) with a carefully phrased cello accompaniment from Marcin. The changes of tempo and mood between this and the scherzo-like faster passages were perfectly handled by the musicians and the sense of ensemble was compelling.

 

Benjamin Britten was sixteen when he wrote his Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and String Trio in 1932. It’s a challenging work for the performers and possibly for the listeners too, if they’re not familiar with Britten’s harmonic style. The work has echoes of Stravinsky and makes considerable use of pizzicato strings with strident, vibrant harmonies. The difficult oboe part was handled to perfection by Cooper and there was a wonderful sense of timing and precision with some fine string playing especially in the opening and closing sections.

 

After a rapturous response from the audience, the quartet played their encore piece, composed only a few weeks ago especially for the occasion by local composer Colin Kirkpatrick. The musicians played the short and lively work superbly and at the end even received some cheers from the audience. Unusually, after the applause had faded away, everyone remained in their seats. It really looked as though no one wanted to go home. 

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

RENOVATION CONCERT AT BEN'S ON 28 AUGUST 2016 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Pattaya Mail August 2016

Cat on a Hot Thin Roof

by Colin Kaye

 

In a way, we have to thank Ben’s cat for this concert which was given recently by five members of Grand Opera Thailand to celebrate the theater’s reopening after major renovation work. At the Christmas concert last December there was a moment of unexpected drama when, during a performance by soprano Pimluk Vessawasdi, part of the ceiling came down near the right hand side of the stage. Fortunately no one was directly underneath at the time, but the collapse was caused by Ben’s cat who was taking an evening stroll on the roof.  Although the cat (Blacky, since you asked) is not particularly heavy, no one realised that hordes of termites had been at work with the result that the plasterboard had been literally eaten away. Many of the rotten beams and the plasterwork had to be replaced.

 

It took seven days to complete the repair work and the theater now looks as good as new. The audience seemed pleased to be back in the familiar surroundings and the members of Grand Opera Thailand provided a fine, well-paced concert. After an amusing welcome address from Ben himself, the concert opened with Verdi’s Libiamo ne' lieti calici sung enthusiastically by Pimluk Vessawasdi (Mai) and tenor Kittiphong Klabprathum (Ohm). Then counter-tenor Potpreecha Cholvijarn (Jak) sang the demanding Bach aria Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust with typically clear tone and perfect intonation. Ohm provided a compelling performance of the lovely Dowland song Come again, sweet love doth now invite after which baritone Stefan Sanchez, Director of Grand Opera Thailand sang Mañanita de San Juan. It’s a charming song by the Spanish Catalan composer Eduard Toldrà who incidentally, founded the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in 1944. Then it was Mai’s turn to sing Chanson d’amour, a delightful song by Gabriel Fauré. Mai has tremendous stage presence and seems to have a natural ability to connect with the audience. This was evident in her performance of Mozart’s Vedrai, carino from “Don Giovanni”.

 

Perhaps one of the highlights of the evening was Stefan’s first-class presentation of three British folksongs arranged by Benjamin Britten. They included The Sally Gardens, O Waly, Waly and the evergreen song The Foggy, Foggy Dew to which Stefan brought insightful characterization. Pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm provided splendid accompaniments. He has a thoroughly professional and unobtrusive approach and has the ability to handle contrasting musical styles with equal skill and musicianship. Later, Stefan performed the surprisingly jolly song Fußreise by Hugo Wolf. The title roughly translates as “Going a-Walking” which of course is what Blacky was doing when he fell through the roof. Later in the programme Stefan brought power and drama to Mozart’s Hai gia vinta la causa...Vedro mentr'io sospiro from “The Marriage of Figaro”.

 

Ohm gave a gentle and charming reading of Schubert’s song Ganymed, a setting of a poem by Goethe and drawn from ancient Greek mythology.  Then in contrast he sang Turina’s Farruca with its declamatory opening chords and Spanish rhythms. Jak sang Ridente la calma by Mozart with good phrasing and lovely tone quality but the audience was particularly enthusiastic about Venga pur, minacci, e frema from Mozart’s little-known opera “Mitridate, re di Ponto”. It is a technically challenging aria written when the fourteen-year-old composer was on tour in Italy.

 

The concert concluded with a couple of songs by Andrew Lloyd-Webber in which Mai sang Think of me which she began with a lovely sotto voce tone quality. Ohm and Mai confidently sang All I ask of you from “The Phantom of the Opera” and the concerts finished with the encore number, the rousing Italian song Funiculì, Funiculà.

 

Oh yes, the cat. Thank you for reminding me. Despite falling through the roof, the cat escaped completely unscathed and now basks in his newly-acquired celebrity status.

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

Review in Pattaya Mail "LAST ACT OF THE SEASON

Top Singing Talents from Bangkok 

on 24th April 2016 at Ben’s Theater Jomtien

by Colin Kaye

It’s not often that the music of England’s Henry Purcell rings out in Jomtien, but it did last weekend at Ben’s Theater when the two sopranos Kamonporn Huncharoen and Sasinee Aswajesdakul opened their concert with Purcell’s stirring duet Sound the Trumpet. Written in 1694, it comes from a musical ode written for the birthday of Queen Mary II. Originally scored for two counter-tenors, the voices imitate the sound of trumpets and the song calls for careful vocal control on the long notes and a great deal of agility in the middle section. The singers gave a splendid performance with excellent articulation and rich soprano tone.

 

Both singers are from the College of Music at Mahidol University. They were both born in Bangkok and both started singing at the age of ten. Kamonporn won the first prize in “Celebrating His Majesty Singing Contest” in 2005, and in the following year she won the second prize from the “Musical Compositions of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadaj Singing Contest”. She is now continuing with her Master’s Degree in vocal studies and working as part-time vocal instructor at Mahidol. Sasinee Aswajesdakul entered the Mahidol’s College of Music at the age of thirteen in the Pre-College Program and is currently a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Classical Vocal Performance. Since May 2010, Sasinee has received full scholarships with the highest score from the College of Music at Mahidol University.

 

Sound the Trumpet was one of four duets and in many ways they were the musical highlights of the evening. The well-known Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach was one of their most compelling performances, sung with a fine sense of ensemble. It went down well with the audience too. The duet Sull’aria...che soave zeffiretto from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro again showed Kamonporn and Sasinee in excellent form with assured ensemble, phrasing, confident audience contact and excellent characterization of the opera roles. They also gave a moving and thoughtful performance of Pie Jesu by Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the movements from his Requiem Mass first performed in 1985.

 

Kamonporn’s first solo song in the programme was the waltz-like Mattinata written in 1904 by the Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, the first song specially written for the Gramophone Company, later known as HMV. She sang the song with beautiful tone quality and displayed her confident stage presence. She later gave a dramatic performance of Franz Schubert’s narrative and technically challenging song Erlkönig.  This is a difficult work but she was brilliantly supported by pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn who is a fine solo pianist in his own right. The piano accompaniment requires enormous dexterity to play the repeated triplets in the right hand while the left hand has to cope with a repeated theme in octaves. Throughout the concert he proved a remarkably reliable and thoughtful accompanist who seems to be getting better and better.

 

Kamonporn’s performance of Mozart’s song Das Lied der Trennung, was lovely, quietly controlled and thoughtful. Her voice seems at its best in the quieter sections and she captivated the audience with her singing of Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante from Bizet’s Carmen. It was a melancholy reflective performance and one of her best contributions to the evening.  

                                                                              

Sasinee’s first solo song was the intensely moving Widmung by Robert Schumann, always a favourite with audiences and singers alike, from a set of twenty-six songs composed in 1840. It was given a beautifully controlled performance by Sasinee and the quieter sections were especially telling, showing her splendid soprano voice and her excellent intonation at their best. In contrast, she provided a spirited and competent performance of Sullivan’s Where the Bee Sucks, from the incidental music to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was followed by her captivating performance of the well-known waltz, Il Bacio with finely articulated playing from Morakot. Perhaps her best performances of the evening were of Puccini’s Quando m’en vo and Mein Herr Marquis, the famous waltz from Die Fledermaus, both sung with great confidence and verve. Sasinee has a remarkable voice for one so young, rich in tone quality with fine intonation.  Both Kamonporn and Sasinee performed with tremendous confidence and with plenty of audience eye-contact, which is so essential because it makes the concert that much more rewarding for the listeners.

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

FLTR: POTPRECHA (JAK) CHOLVIJARN, MANASANUN (ANGEL) AKSORNTEANG, BEN HANSEN 

(FOUNDER BEN'S tHEATER) AND PIANIST MORAKOT CHERDCHOO-NGARM

REVIEW PATTAYA MAIL 26 fEBRUARY 2016

A Valentine’s Night at Ben’s

by Colin Kaye

A full house of lively concert-goers gathered at Ben’s recently to hear an evening of romantic songs and arias performed by mezzo-soprano Manasanun Aksornteang and countertenor Jak (Potprecha) Cholvijarn with Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm at the piano. The programme opened with Jak’s fine performance of Mozart’s aria Cara, lontana ancora from the little-known opera “Ascanio in Alba”. It’s a pastoral nymphs-and-shepherds romp by the fifteen-year-old Mozart, written to celebrate the wedding of Empress Maria Theresa’s son. Jak gave an impressive performance of the technically demanding aria and his purity of tone and control of dynamics was noticeable from the start. Even so, he seemed more at home in Monteverdi’s reflective aria Oblivion soave from the composer’s majestic opera “L’incoronazione di Poppea”. It was a lovely performance and Jak’s controlled sotto voce singing of the opening recitative was compelling.

 

He later sang Handel’s aria Domerò la tua fierezza which is the type of thing that Jak does so well, marked by clear articulation and excellent control of the tricky melodic leaps. Jak, who has recently completed his Ph D studies was educated in England and sang in Bristol Cathedral Choir as a choral scholar. In Thailand, he has performed as soloist in operas by Thai composer Somtow Sucharitkul and given many concerts with Grand Opera (Thailand).

 

Manasanun Aksornteang (Angel) opened her programme with a lovely performance of Als Luise die Briefe, one of the comparatively few songs (as distinct from opera arias) by Mozart. Angel has good stage presence and a fine singing voice with remarkably focussed tone quality and splendidly clear articulation. But it was her assured and  moving performance of Debussy’s Nuit d'étoile (“Starry Night”) that showed Angel at her best, with spot-on intonation and excellent vocal control. This was one of the many highlights of the evening and was followed by a lovely reading of the introspective Von ewiger Liebe (“Eternal Love”) by Johannes Brahms, an impressive performance which displayed Angel’s fine vocal skills. She began singing lessons at the age of thirteen and during her studies has performed at numerous concerts, recitals and operas. She was a prize winner at the Barry Alexander International Vocal Competition and is currently a part-time voice teacher at the College of Music, Mahidol University.

 

But perhaps the highlights in the first part of the programme were the duets. Jak and Angel gave a lovely performance of Purcell’s timeless classic My dearest, my fairest in which their voices blended perfectly in the rich harmonies and expressive dissonances. They also gave a superb reading of the duet To thee thou glorious son of worth from Handel’s 1750 oratorio “Theodora”, in which both singers produced pure and focused tone quality with finely controlled dynamics and clear phrasing.

 

As usual, Jak and Angel were accompanied by the highly competent Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm who started piano lessons at the age of six and went on to win several prestigious prizes for piano performance in both Thailand and Malaysia. Morakot is also an experienced composer and has had much experience in music theatre. In 2010 he received the Young Thai Artists Award and four years later he composed the music for Sita Dreams which combined the two epic stories of the Ramayana and Wagner’s The Ring.

 

Angel opened the second part of the concert with two of the best-known songs by Richard Strauss written in 1885 when the composer was twenty-one. She gave a confident performence of Zueignung  and her singing of the charming, nostalgic song Allerseelen was a delight with beautifully sensitive accompaniments from Morakot. In the Saint-Saëns aria Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix Angel displayed her lyrical tone quality and superb dynamic range.

 

Jak Cholvijarn excelled himself in the first performance of Kyoto Dreams, a set of songs written for him by local composer Colin Kirkpatrick. The songs are based on English translations of medieval Japanese poems and although the music is challenging, Jak gave a splendid and compelling reading of the work. His intonation was secure and as always, his tone quality clear and focused. The piano parts makes technical demands too but Morakot gave a confident, rhythmical and throughly musical performance.

 

The Purcell aria Strike the viol was sung by Jak with his usual quality of tone, vocal control and sense of musicianship. Angel’s performance of Schumann’s passionate Widmung (“Devotion”) drew much admiration from the audience and was yet another highlight of the evening. The encore duet, Belle Nuit from Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” is probably the most famous barcarolle ever composed. It was a huge success with the audience at Ben’s too and it made a satisfying conclusion to the concert by these fine young musicians.

(This article first appeared in the Pattaya Mail newspaper on 26th February 2016. © Pattaya Mail Publishing 2016)

Review Pattaya Mail 22 January 2016

AN OPERATIC NEW YEAR CELEBRATION AT BEN'S

 

A Humming Chorus at Ben’s

by Colin Kaye

For a moment, I thought it was my imagination, but it wasn’t. During Franz Lehar’s song Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß several members of the audience, especially those of a Germanic disposition, were audibly humming along with the tune. It was like being in the waiting scene from Madama Butterfly. But soprano soloist Nattida Gumchai was unfazed and actually seemed to enjoy the unexpected chorus. Not surprising really, because despite her youth, Nattida is an experienced and accomplished singer. Born in 1989, she started singing lessons at the age of thirteen and by seventeen was singing on original soundtracks of various Thai television series and also performed in television commercials. She has a first-class honours degree and is currently studying on a Master Degree at the College of Music, Mahidol University.

 

Nattida was joined by bass-baritone Pichaya Kemasingki who had stepped in at short notice. He’s also a member of Grand Opera Thailand, the successful opera production group directed by Stefan Sanchez. Pichaya is a talented singer-actor who has already completed his B. Mus. in Vocal Performance at the College of Music, Mahidol University and who has performed major roles in many operas. The opening numbers were confident and sparkling. Nattida began with Una donna quindici anni from Mozart’s “Cosi van Tutte” and gave a lively account of the aria with exceptional stage presence and audience contact. Pichaya opened his selection with Non piu andrai, one of the most well-known arias from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” in which his intonation was spot-on and his diction impressively clear.

 

One of the highlights during the first half of the concert was Nattida’s beautifully poised performance of two Schumann songs, Widmung and Du bist wie eine Blume, the first of which was later converted into a heroic piano piece by Franz Liszt. Nattida gave a thoughtful and telling performance of the songs with perfectly clear diction. The audience gave a warm reception to her excellent singing of Mein Herr Marquis from the Strauss opera “Die Fledermaus” which she played with tremendous panache and delightful acting. Pichaya gave a convincing performance of Verdi’s Come dal ciel precipita which demonstrated his clear low register and ability to bring off the heroic closing section. He also gave a telling and powerful performance of Vecchia zimarra from Puccini’s “La Bohème”.

 

The second half of the concert began with Nattida’s fine performance of two songs by Brahms and Grieg in which her finely-focused tone quality conveyed the reflective mood of the songs. Most of the second half was devoted to lighter fare, with music from the musicals and some lovely duets. I was especially impressed by Nattida and Pichaya singing Sun and Moon from “Miss Saigon” in which their voices blended beautifully. Another highlight was All I ask of you from “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber in which the singers worked splendidly together and Pichaya impressed with his remarkably focused soft tone. His performance of Stars from “Les Misérables” was much appreciated by the audience.

 

Nattida also gave a moving performance of Don’t cry for me Argentina which showed her lovely clear tone quality and precise diction. She was encouraged by sensitive piano playing from Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn who incidentally is a brilliant solo pianist in his own right. He has won prizes in the Yamaha Thailand Music Festival Competition, the Eighth Bangkok Chopin Piano Competition and the Third Persatuan International Chopin Piano Competition in Malaysia. He also holds a Bachelor Degree in Composition from Mahidol University. Throughout the concert he proved a remarkably reliable and thoughtful accompanist on the fine Yamaha digital piano. The audience delighted in Pichaya’s entertaining performance of Copland’s I Bought me a Cat and the evening concluded with three encores bringing the concert to a satisfying conclusion. Several members of the audience felt it was the best concert yet in the current season. I think I’d agree and on reflection, I rather enjoyed the humming chorus.

 Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

Review Pattaya Mail 25 December 2015

Keys and Strings at Ben’s Saturday 12th December 2015

by Colin Kaye

An appreciative audience recently enjoyed an evening of violin favourites at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien. The programme featured violinist Jonathon Glonek who made his first international tour at the age of twelve and has since developed as a gifted violinist and performing artist. He won a scholarship to the University of California where he studied with Alexander Treger and later studied with the legendary Hungarian virtuoso Tibor Varga. Jonathon was recently featured as soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Ukrainian National Festival Symphony Orchestra in Kiev.

From the beginning of the concert it was obvious that he is a fine violinist with a brilliant mastery of the instrument. The programme began with a performance of two of the Slavonic Dances by Dvořák which are among the composer’s most well-known works. Originally written for piano, they’re best known in the composer’s own colourful orchestral arrangements. Jonathon then gave a beautiful performance of Dvořák’s well-known Humoresque No 7 which the composer wrote during a summer holiday. Jonathon’s rich and sonorous tone quality came to the fore in his delightful performance of another Dvořák favourite, Songs My Mother Taught Me. This must be the composer’s most well-known piece and Jonathon played the arrangement made in 1914 by the violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler. I was impressed by Jonathon’s fluid vibrato and his sparing but effective use of portamento, perhaps an influence of the Hungarian school of violin playing. 

Jonathon then performed two well-known works by Edward Elgar, first the Salut d’Amour, a delightfully old-fashioned salon piece which was the composer’s best-selling work. It was followed by the less well-known but technically challenging La Capricieuse. The work dates from 1891 when the composer was thirty-four but it requires complicated bowing and other advanced techniques. Not surprisingly, Jonathon seemed to be in his element in this difficult piece and gave an impressive and thoroughly musical performance. The piece was a showcase for his superb bowing skills.

The final work in the first half of the programme was Fritz Kreisler’s delightful Caprice Viennois. Kreisler is regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time and this piece contains echoes of gypsy music as well as a nostalgic slow waltz. This work also served to display Jonathon’s flawless technique. Throughout the concert he was accompanied by Usa Napawan on a Yamaha digital piano which produces an excellent and authentic tone quality. Perhaps we should have heard a bit more of it. The best piano accompanists are always concerned about playing too loudly, but I felt that Usa was sometimes a bit too restrained. Even so, she is clearly a competent and sympathetic accompanist and plays with a great sense of musicality. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Piano Performance from the College of Music, Mahidol University.  She has performed with acclaimed singers and instrumentalists in Thailand and is currently teaching at the New International School of Thailand and Shrewsbury International School Bangkok.

The second half of the concert contained two major works, both by the nineteenth-century Polish violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski. First was his Violin Concerto No 2, one of the great violin concertos of the Romantic era. The work has some memorable melodies but has a demanding variety of challenging techniques and the brilliant finale contains reminders of joyful gypsy-style music. Jonathon produces a lovely rich tone especially in the low register and the slow movement was magical. He really brought out the gypsy character of the last movement too. The concert concluded with Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brillante, first performed by the composer in 1870.  It provided a thrilling conclusion to a satisfying concert.

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

REVIEW Pattaya Mail Friday 4th December 2015
 

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd
Outstanding young Thai musicians in Jomtien

by Colin Kaye
 
It’s not often that you hear songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francis Poulenc and Richard Strauss performed one after the other less than a mile from Jomtien Beach. That is, unless you happened to be at Ben’s Theater recently, at a splendid concert given by talented young Thai musicians. It featured lyric soprano Pimluk Vessawasdi and baritone Ittinat Seeboonruang who are members of Grand Opera Thailand, a successful opera company founded in 2012 by Stefan Sanchez. They were accompanied by their regular pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn and they sang a selection of classical songs not only in English but also in Italian, German and French - in itself quite an achievement.
 
Pimluk opened the programme with a telling performance of V’adoro Pupille, an aria from Handel’s 1724 opera Giulio Cesare. From the start she demonstrated her powerful voice with its rich tone colour. She has a fine stage presence too and clearly enjoys performing, despite the fact that some of the songs were quite difficult. Pimluk holds a bachelor degree in communication technology and is currently studying for a master’s degree in singing. Already, she’s won many prizes for vocal performance and has appeared on the sound tracks of several Thai films. All this wealth of experience was evident in her performances, notably in the aria Poor Wandering One from Gilbert & Sullivan’s opera The Pirates of Penzance. The audience clearly enjoyed her singing of the Puccini aria Quando m’en vo from La Boheme in which she showed her remarkable dynamic range and her skill in bringing the operatic characters to life. Perhaps one of the highlights of Pimluk’s programme was another Puccini aria from Tosca, Vissi d'arte a lovely song which she sang in a beautifully controlled style. Another highlight was her performance of the delightful song by Poulenc, Les chemins de l'amour dedicated by the composer to the Parisian night-club singer and international star, Yvonne Printemps. 
 
Ittinat began his selection with the aria Avant de quitter ces lieux from Gounod’s opera Faust and although he gave a commendable account of the piece he seemed much more at home in Wagner’s aria O du, mein holder Abendstern from the opera Tannhäuser. Perhaps the language helped, because Ittinat has a Bachelor of Arts in German. His diction was clear, and his voice well-controlled. Incidentally, for a time he studied with the acclaimed British bass-baritone, John Shirley-Quirk. Ittinat also gave an excellent performance of Mozart’s Abendempfindung which is a lovely song though technically quite challenging. His intonation and phrasing were spot-on.  He seemed at his best in a couple of French songs which for me at least, were one of the highlights of the evening. He gave a splendid performance of Duparc’s Chanson Triste and the lovely En Sourdine by Gabriel Fauré. He really seemed to bring out the essence of these two delicate songs with beautifully controlled vibrato and pleasing vocal tone quality. His performance of the Vaughan Williams song Silent Noon was equally impressive as was his compelling reading of Rachmaninov’s In the Silence of the Secret Night written when the composer was just seventeen.
 
Then there were the duets, which were especially well received by the audience. Mozart’s tongue-twisting Papageno – Papagena Duet was a great success, as was the singers’ encore number, the famous Lippen Schweigen duet from Lehár’s The Merry Widow. Throughout the concert I was impressed with the piano accompanist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn who is a prize-winning pianist in his own right. His playing was accurate, thoughtful and always with a compelling sense of style, reflecting perhaps his wide musical experience. He’s a fine young musician who has recently completed his Bachelor Degree in Composition. Interestingly he read most of the music not from sheets of printed paper, but from the screen of a small computer. A sign of the times, I suppose.

 

FLTR: Baritone Ittinat Seeboonruang, Lyric soprano Pimluk Vessawasdi en pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn at Ben's (20 November 2015)

 

REVIEW OF OUR LAST CONCERT "FINAL ACT OF THE SEASON"

Thai Talent at Ben’s

by Colin Kaye

It was a packed house at the final concert of the season at Ben’s in Jomtien last week.  Billed as “a vocal bombardment,” the programme featured three talented Thai singers from Bangkok. Counter-tenor Potprecha Cholvijarn (Jak) opened the programme with a lovely aria from Mozart’s opera Mitridate written at the age of fourteen. Jak studied at Bristol University and sang in prestigious choirs in the UK. He has performed with Bangkok Opera, the Siam Philharmonic and the Siam Sinfonietta and composer Somtow Sucharitkul cast him in three of his operas. Jak gave a telling performance of Handel’s Dolc' é pur d'amor l'affanno but really came into his own with songs by Caccini and Dowland. He has a clear focused tone, and seemed to be in his element with a moving performance of Dowland’s melancholy Flow my tears.

Soprano Nattida Gumchai (Pang) started singing at age of thirteen and in 2011 began her Master Degree studies in Vocal Performance at Mahidol University’s College of Music where she’s now a voice teacher. She has performed with Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra and she was a finalist in the Osaka International Music Competition. She gave a lively performance of Les Filles de Cadix by Delibes, which showed her powerful, focused voice, her excellent intonation and her charming stage presence.  She later sang two songs by Hugo Wolf, and performed a song from Die Fledermaus enchanting the audience with her confidence and immaculate sense of timing. Pang also gave an expressive performance of Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante from “Carmen” which demonstrated her superb vocal technique.

Baritone Saran Senavinin (Rain) began his professional career in 2010. He performed in Somtow Sucharitkul’s opera, Mae Naak as the Bloomsbury Theatre in London and has appeared in many productions at Silpakorn University. Rain performed three songs by the Italian composer Stefano Donaudy and impressed with his confident stage presence and powerful voice. He also sang three songs by Samuel Barber performing them with confidence and a sense of drama, clear diction and accurate intonation.  

The keyboard accompaniments were provided by Piet van den Broek, a regular performer at Ben’s and Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm, who started piano lessons at the age of six. In recent years, he has won prizes at the Bangkok Chopin Piano Competition and at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Malaysia. He’s also an accomplished composer with a Bachelor Degree in composition. He accompanied the singers sensitively with rhythmic, well-phrased playing and he’s clearly a fine musician.

Perhaps the musical highlights of the concert were the vocal duets. Jak and Pang gave an exhilarating performance of two Purcell songs including the well-known Sound the Trumpet. Pang was joined by Rain for the exhilarating Lippen Schweigen from Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widow”. They gave a wonderfully compelling performance which really brought the house down. Rain and Pang concluded the concert with Donizetti’s Pronta i'o son from “Don Pasquale”. It was a really splendid tour de force that captivated and delighted the enthusiastic audience.

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd   

 

Review in Pattaya Mail 27 February 2015

Originally published in the Pattaya Mail. Copyright Pattaya Mail Publishing Co Ltd

“Thank God it’s Friday at Ben’s Guitar & Voice” Friday 6th February 2015
 
International Flavour at Ben’s
by Colin Kaye
 
A Czech guitarist, a Russian soprano, a Dutch pianist and music from many countries recently delighted a full-house at Ben’s Theater in Jomtien. The first half of the concert featured the Czech guitarist Leon Koudelak who has performed in Cuba, South America, Asia and in over fifteen European countries. He records for Tyrolis Classics and has released five CDs of solo guitar music. Leon lives in Pattaya and teaches at universities in Bangkok.
The concert was also attended by Dr. Vítězslav Grepl, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic. He gave the presentations and with his wife, stayed long after the concert to chat with musicians and guests. 
Leon Koudelak performed an interesting selection of music, beginning with the Cadenza from the Guitar Concerto by Villa-Lobos. The work was written in 1951 and dedicated to Andres Segovia. With an improvisatory nature and rich harmonies, it was beautifully performed and revealed Leon’s flawless technique. It was followed by two preludes for guitar, also by Villa-Lobos. The performance had a wonderful sense of rhythm and flowing rubato. Leon then gave a splendid performance of the Five Preludes by the 19th century Spanish composer Tarrega, who incidentally, wrote one of the best-known tunes in the world; the Nokia ringtone, “borrowed” from his Gran Vals.
Leon continued with works by Mozzani, and the renowned Spanish composer Granados who wrote a set of Valses Poéticos for solo piano, transcribed for guitar by Leon himself. The music is almost classical in style with elegant melodies and the superb performance demonstrated Leon’s dazzling technical skill and impressive musical artistry. 
The second half of the concert featured the talented Russian soprano Larisa Ezhelenko, who studied piano and voice at the Novosibirsk Academy of Music. Larisa has given many concerts around Novosibirsk and has sung at the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Hall and in the Tchaikovsky Philharmonic Hall in Moscow. She has already given several highly-acclaimed concerts in Pattaya.
Larisa’s recital included a wide range of songs, superbly accompanied by the Dutch pianist Piet van den Broek. Dowland’s Come again! Sweet love doth now invite opened the recital and Larisa perfectly conveyed the melancholy mood of the song. Her performance of arias by Pergolesi and Vivaldi impressed me with her finely focused voice and controlled tone quality. But perhaps the French songs were the highlights of the recital and the exquisite Chanson d’Amour by Fauré was given a telling and sensitive performance. Poulenc’s voluptuous song Les chemins de l’amour dates from 1940 and Larisa sang it with confidence and style, with an assured piano accompaniment from Piet van den Broek. 
Larisa gave lively performances of arias by Mozart and Delibes but the audience seemed particularly impressed with a gentle love song by Marcus Tristan who wrote it especially for Larisa. The recital culminated in the vocal waltz Il Bacio (“The Kiss”) by the Italian conductor and composer Luigi Arditi, a song that everyone seems to know but nobody can actually name.  Her encore, Schubert’s Ave Maria was beautifully sung and made a moving conclusion to a delightful evening.
A big surprise for Czech guitarist Leon Koudelak (middle) as he learned that Czech ambassador Grepl (r) attended his first concert.

BEN at his 77th Birthday Party with renowned German Swiss violinist Mathias Goebner.

 

 

FLTR: Pimluk Vssawasdi, soprano, pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarn and soprano Nattida Gumchai from Grand Opera (Thailand) 

Grand Opera (Thailand) 

FLTR: Baritone Saran Senavinin, baritone Stefan Sanchez, soprano Sineenuch Pittayajumrus, tenor Kittiphon Klabprathum 

and the late professor Laurence Davis, pianist. (November 2013)

Grand Opera (Thailand) 

FLTR: Laurence Davis (piano), soprano Sineenuch Pittayajumrus and baritone Saran Senavinin ( November 2013)

Tenor Brendan Keefe-Au from Singapore with pianist Laurence Davis (2014)

Baritone Saran Senavinin, pianist Laurence Davis and violinist Ohm Teyoon (2011)

FLTR: "Follywood" a show with American puppeteer Tim Bergen with Lana and pianist Ben Hansen (2006)

Violinist Mathias Bögner and pianist Laurence Davis (2012 - 2014)

Klaas Hofstra and pianist Regina Albrink in “Chopin en zijn verlangen” (Chopin and his desire) a theatre play about the composer. Special show for Dutch expats in Pattaya. (2014)

Grand Opera (Thailand)

Duet from Fiddler on the roof with baritone Stefan Sanchez and soprano Sineenuch Pittayajumrus (2013) Left pianist Laurence Davis

Dutch cabaret "Twintig voor Twaalf" (Twenty to Twelve) 

FLTR: Sieb Elzinga, Wim de Vries, Ben Hansen, Peter Kuiper. 

Front: Dinie de Vries and Mia van ’t Hoff. (2008-2013)

Dutch cabaret show "Twintig voor twaalf" (Twenty to Twelve) 

FLTR: Ben Hansen, Peter Kuiper, Dinie de Vries, Mia van 't Hoff, Sieb Elzinga and Wim de Vries. (2012)

The Sea Breeze Choir of Pattaya in Ben's garden. Left choir leader Ben Hansen (2006-2009)

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Ben's Theater Jomtien Hanuman area Jomtien
Pattaya Thailand
038-252432

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

"What an inspiring evening last night at the concert. It is so gratifying to see young people pursuing a passion for the arts so seriously. Their expressive faces too, are a joy to witness".

Why use overseas divas when there is such great talent available locally?

"I enjoyed the concert tremendously and the musicians were excellent of course. Each performer was a highlight. I thought the whole thing was superbly organized; effective lighting, good clear service announcements and excellent service from your pleasant staff dealing with the drinks.

"Dear Khun Ben,

I would like to thank you for giving me, my daughter and grand daughter the opportunity to enjoy "Key & Strings" at your theater last night.

It was delightful to find a cultural face of Pattaya, which I had been totally unaware of, and I praise you for making me realize.
Please continue your good work! Again, thank you and your staff.
Warm regards,
K. K."
 

 

 

                                                                                                     
 

BEN WITH THE FIRST VOCALISTS EVER 

ROGER FARMAN AND BARRY PETHIG