Spectacles at Ben’s Theater

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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.

The Brille Trio (l-r): Yossral Songkiatkul, Varissara Tanakom and Vannophat Kaploykeo. (Photo/Ben Hansen)
The Brille Trio (l-r): Yossral Songkiatkul, Varissara Tanakom and Vannophat Kaploykeo. (Photo/Ben Hansen)

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.