Sprightly Strings at Diana Garden Resort

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Dr Tasana Nagavajara, soloist and conductor of Silpakorn String Orchestra.
Dr Tasana Nagavajara, soloist and conductor of Silpakorn String Orchestra.

A large audience of almost three hundred enthusiastic concert-goers turned up recently at the prestigious Diana Garden Resort in North Pattaya to hear a performance by the acclaimed String Orchestra of Silpakorn University. The concert was presented jointly by Pattaya City Expats Club, Pattaya International Ladies Club, and Pattaya Classical Music. The management at Diana Garden Resort had laid on a splendidly lavish buffet for guests to enjoy before the concert and during the interval. Judging by the number of people eating and the fact that there was not much left, it was clearly a great success.

The concert was held in the hotel’s imposing Jakatheppimarn Room in which the luxurious carpeting produced a very dry acoustic. This is the kind of sound I prefer but few string players like this kind of unhelpful acoustic. Not only it is remarkably revealing but it’s also difficult to work in. Although the individual players can hear themselves all too clearly, it is much less easy to hear other members of the ensemble. Under these conditions, playing in tune with each other and keeping the ensemble together becomes something of a challenge. For some reason, during the concert the room lights were dimmed almost completely, apart from slowly pulsating coloured lights in the ceiling which changed colour every twelve seconds. And yes, I timed them.

The String Orchestra of Silpakorn University consists of about twenty young musicians and it’s directed by Dr Tasana Nagavajara who also introduced some of the music. He has given many previous concerts in Pattaya, either in chamber ensembles or with the Silpakorn Summer Music School Orchestra which gives its annual performances at Tiffany’s Theatre. Dr Tasana started learning the violin at the age of nine and in 1989 was granted a full scholarship by the International Menuhin Music Academy to study violin in Switzerland.

He was a founding member of the Faculty of Music at Silpakorn University and as a professional musician he’s performed the major violin concertos with Thailand’s leading orchestras. He has also served as Concertmaster of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra under Hikotaro Yazaki for ten consecutive seasons.

The concert at Diana Garden Resort opened with Vivaldi’s well-known Violin Concerto in A minor, featuring Dr Tasana as soloist. The first movement was taken at a sprightly tempo and set the concert off to a promising start. There was some expressive string playing in the second movement and in the energetic last movement Dr Tasana impressed the audience with his excellent violin playing.

Dr Tasana Nagavajara, soloist in Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A minor.
Dr Tasana Nagavajara, soloist in Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A minor.

The highlight of the first part of the concert for me at any rate was the lively performance of Bartók’s delightful Romanian Folk Dances. This is a suite of six short pieces composed in 1915 and based on genuine folk melodies that Bartók heard on his travels in Transylvania. They were originally written for piano but later arranged for ensemble by the composer. The orchestra gave a confident performance and the last movement of the suite was especially successful.

1st violins of the Silpakorn String Orchestra.
1st violins of the Silpakorn String Orchestra.

The orchestra seemed to appear much more confident in the second part of the concert. Johann Strauss’s famous Pizzicato Polka was given an assured performance but one of the highlights of the concert was probably the splendid arrangement of the song  Over the Rainbow. You may recall that it originally came from the movie The Wizard of Oz in which it was sung by Judy Garland. The orchestra gave a well-measured performance of the arrangement which also included some fine cello solo playing. The audience seemed to enjoy the perky performance of Leroy Anderson’s The Syncopated Clock  which was written in 1945 while the composer was serving in the US Army. Another musical highlight was the performance of the Royal Marines March,  one of the many popular and timeless pieces composed by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The leader of the 2nd violins.
The leader of the 2nd violins.

The programme also included a compelling performance of the traditional Neapolitan song Santa Lucia though for some reason the title didn’t appear on the printed programme. The concert ended with an encore, a lively performance of that well-known piece by Johann Strauss, The Radetzky March. This of course is the jolly piece that’s always played as one of the encores at the traditional New Year Concert in Vienna, and in true Viennese tradition the high-spirited Pattaya audience joined in by thunderously clapping along to the music. And it was all in a good cause, because fifty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Pattaya Orphanage along with several other charitable foundations.

Radchada Chomjinda Director of the Human Help Network Thailand presents a bouquet to Tasana at the end of a most enjoyable concert.
Radchada Chomjinda Director of the Human Help Network Thailand presents a bouquet to Tasana at the end of a most enjoyable concert.
Judith Edmonds (right) presents a token of appreciation to Khun Sopin Tappajug in gratitude for her enormous support for the charity concert.
Judith Edmonds (right) presents a token of appreciation to Khun Sopin Tappajug in gratitude for her enormous support for the charity concert.