Strings with wings
It was a winner’s concert last Friday night at the Goethe Institut, even if it was officially named the ‘‘Ayudhya Allianz C.P. for the Rhythm of Your Life Concert’’ — can’t blame the sponsors for wanting a piece of the action!
The culmination of the ‘‘National Beethoven Competition for Young String Players 2008’’, it was, in part, sponsored by the above mentioned Ayudya Allianz C.P. as well as Mercedes-Benz, Singha, D&M Music Studio, LTU Airberlin Group and the Goethe Institut Bangkok itself.
Without the generosity and kindness of such sponsors — and the Goethe Institut providing such a lovely setting for the goings-on — classical music would be much poorer off in Thailand.
We note with sadness the recent passing of HRH the late Princess Galyani Vadhana: The world of classical music here lost one of its best patrons and constant supporters. Let’s hope that what she began will be continued by others, whether corporate or individual, who have a passion for classical music and who want to provide opportunities for youngsters in Thailand who wish to pursue this very rewarding but demanding path.
Two age groups competed in this year’s Strings Competition. A first prize was awarded in the 13 to 17 years old category (Group B); but not in the 18 to 24 years old category (Group A). The organisers were somewhat apologetic; there was no need to be. The jury was comprised of international experts, including Anne-Kathrin Lindig of Weimar, Germany, and Mitako Kameda from Tokyo, among many others. If a first prize in Group A had been deemed worthy, it would have surely been awarded. It only means our musicians must work a little harder to reach truly international standards.
Every recital, concert or show has a star — and this evening was no different, although we had to wait until the very end to hear her. I am speaking, of course, of the 1st Prize winner in the Group B category, 16-year-old Yada Lee. She was calm, self-possessed, did not seem the slightest bit nervous — in fact, she seemed to be having a grand time. As well she might. Her performance was, simply put, stunning. She offered very heartfelt renditions of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor (1st Movement) and Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G Minor (1st Movement).
To be fair, much technical proficiency was on offer that evening by other performers. Some of it was a bit mechanical, a bit cold, a bit too polished, a little too perfect. Only a few of the performers managed to go beyond the strings and the notes and make the violin sing and produce moments of timeless beauty and perfection.
Yada Lee did, hampered though she was by the accompanist (to be fair, the Bruch concerto was meant to have strings in the background, not a piano). Her take on the difficult concerto was masterful and she hit all those double notes at the end just like a pro. It was almost impossible to believe that she was only 16 — you’d think she had been playing violin for a hundred years.
As a result of winning the first prize, she was invited to Weimar, Germany, for a master class at the Franz Liszt University of Music in Weimar, as well as to perform at the very prestigious Beethovenfest Bonn in Germany next year. (Last year’s winner, Thaya Kongpakpaisarn, just performed at the Beethovenfest Bonn last month.)
Only two young gentlemen were among the prize-winners, Anawin Sattabovorn and Sakkan Sarasap. Sakkan performed a series of Bartok’s Romanian Dances. When I hear ‘‘Bartok’’, I tend to run screaming in the other direction, but tonight I was pleasantly surprised. Sakkan was calm, collected, very clearly in control and never let the piano overshadow him. His melodies were clean and haunting. As with Yada Lee, it was ‘‘pin drop time’’ — you could have heard a feather falling to the ground during his performance, so mesmerised were we by his Eastern European sounds.
Anawin, on the other hand, chose to play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor (1st Movement). Like Sakkan and Yada, he was calm, cool and in charge. The busy bits never got too busy or out of control. The melody lines stood out with an aching tenderness. He wasn’t just playing the violin; he was letting it sing for him. And though his performance was quite long, he did it all from memory — an astonishing feat. The solo at the end showed off quite well his range of technical talents.
Keep your eye out these three: Yada, Sakkan and Anawin. I have a feeling we can expect great things from them in the future.
Other winners included Charatmanat Lertsukon, Sreewan Wathawathana, Santiphab Wiriyothai, Thitimon Sukjaruwan, Chatchai Sukniyom, Kamolporn Phajadej, Kanae Tanaka, Patcharaphan Khumprakob, Athiya Voravijitrpun, Pichanika Areeras, Melissa Simonetto, Natthapong Yuthhanasirikul and Runn Chartsmithanont.
Also performing that evening were Mr Charatmanat, Ms Patcharaphan, Ms Tanaka and Ms Sreewan Wathawathana.
First prize winner Yada Lee (right) with third prize winner Sakkan Sarasap.