Chamber concert at the Intimate Hotel

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Pattaya’s Intimate Hotel is near The Avenue Shopping Mall and has a splendid recital room for lectures and chamber concerts.  It has become the regular venue for concerts presented by D & M Music Studio in cooperation with the Yamaha Ratchadapisek Music School in Bangkok.

Dr. Baolu Chen and Srdjan Caldarovic.
Dr. Baolu Chen and Srdjan Caldarovic.

The Intimate Hotel recently hosted their chamber concert for violin and piano featuring four distinguished international musicians: violinist Ivan Novinc with pianists Katarzyna Wieczorek, Srdjan Caldarovic and Dr. Baolu Chen.

The concert began with a dramatic performance of Liszt’s powerful Invocation, written in 1852 and part of the composer’s Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses.  The work is technically demanding with fast passages in octaves.  At one moment there is a reminder of Les Préludes, a symphonic poem which the composer wrote at about the same time.

Katarzyna Wieczorek.
Katarzyna Wieczorek.

Croatian pianist Srdjan Caldarovic provided a heroic and compelling performance.  He graduated from the University of Zagreb in 1995 and completed his studies at Indiana University in the USA and Trinity College of Music in London.  He holds a Master’s degree in piano performance.

In contrast to the powerful Liszt piece, Srdjan then played a delightful arrangement of the American folksong Shenandoah which he performed with a fine sense of phrasing.  He was then joined by Ivan Novinc, a violinist who has performed worldwide and is also the concert master of the Zadar Chamber Orchestra based in Zagreb.  They played Mozart’s Sonata in A major K 305, a short work in two movements composed in 1778.  It’s a pity no one thought about closing the lid of the piano to reduce the volume because the piano tended to dominate the proceedings throughout.  Nevertheless, it was a pleasing and competent performance with some attractive moments.

More musically satisfying perhaps was a work entitled Meditation by Boris Papandopulo, evidently best known for his Croatian Mass.  This meandering piece has an Eastern European sound at times, curiously intermingled with baroque-sounding passages.

Baolu Chen has performed in many recitals throughout Europe, China and the USA where he appeared at Carnegie Hall.  He received his Bachelor and Master degrees from Tianjin Conservatory of Music and Cleveland State University.  He was awarded his Doctorate early this year from Ohio State University.

Violinist Ivan Novinc.
Violinist Ivan Novinc.

At the Pattaya concert, Baolu performed several movements from Tan Dun’s Eight Memories in Watercolour Op 1 which the composer described the work as a “diary of longing” inspired by the folk songs of his culture and recollections of his childhood.  For me it was one of the highlights of the concert, recalling the time in the composer’s life when the violence of the Cultural Revolution was just ending.  Dr Chen provided a compelling performance of this attractive music which at times seemed to be influenced by Debussy though with a distinctive flavour of Chinese traditional music.

Dr Chen then played Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 6 in D flat which proved to be another highlight of the evening.  It’s a great showpiece but technically demanding as well and we heard an assured performance with some lovely expressive playing in the slow passages.

The final section of the programme featured Polish pianist Katarzyna Wieczorek, a world-class chamber musician with many festival performances to her credit.  She performed Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise Op 53 which he wrote in 1842.  This is the famous one, a tremendously difficult work requiring exceptional piano skills.  Katarzyna gave a stunningly good performance with brilliant articulation especially in the endlessly repeating octaves in the bass.  It was another highlight of the concert.

However, I was less impressed with the closing item, an improvisation entitled Hymn of Freedom.  I was rather expecting some thoughtful improvisations on Polish folksongs but instead we were given jazz and rock style improvisations on popular hits of yesteryear.  Others in the audience appeared to be enjoying the performance, discretely tapping their feet to the music.