An international flavour at Ben’s

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A Czech guitarist, a Russian soprano, a Dutch pianist and music from many countries recently delighted a full-house at Ben’s in Jomtien.  The first half of the concert featured the brilliant 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. Vítìzslav 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.Leon Koudelak.

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 played 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.

Piet van den Broek (left) accompanies Russian soprano Larisa Ezhelenko.Piet van den Broek (left) accompanies Russian soprano Larisa Ezhelenko.

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 at the Tchaikovsky Philharmonic Hall in Moscow.  She has already given several highly-acclaimed concerts in Pattaya.

(L-R) Ben Hansen, Leon Koudelak and Dr. Vítìzslav Grepl, the Czech Ambassador.(L-R) Ben Hansen, Leon Koudelak and Dr. Vítìzslav Grepl, the Czech Ambassador.

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 melody that almost everyone recognises but nobody can actually name.  Her encore, Schubert’s Ave Maria was beautifully sung and made a moving conclusion to a delightful evening.