Orchestral Delights at Tiffany’s

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It’s not very often you hear mention of “Tiffany’s Show Pattaya” and “classical orchestral music” in the same sentence. But Saturday, 6th April, an enthusiastic audience gathered at Tiffany’s to hear the Silpakorn Summer Music School Orchestra under the internationally-known Japanese conductor, Hikotaro Yazaki.  The Silpakorn Summer Music School (organised, as you might have guessed, by Silpakorn University) is one of the most prestigious annual summer music schools in Thailand.

About a hundred young musicians, selected by rigorous auditions, come to play music together and further their musical knowledge and experience under the guidance of Silpakorn’s distinguished music faculty. Generously supported by Siam Commercial Bank, this year’s course culminated in two splendid concerts in both Pattaya and Bangkok. It was amazing to see so many talented young players in the same place at the same time. They even managed to find eleven double bass players.

Clarinetist Supak Wittayanukulluk receives a bouquet from Alisa Phanthusak of Tiffany’s Theatre.Clarinetist Supak Wittayanukulluk receives a bouquet from Alisa Phanthusak of Tiffany’s Theatre.

The Tiffany concert kicked off with a lively performance of the concert overture “Carnival” by the Czech composer Antonín Dvorák. Written in 1891, it’s one of Dvoøák’s most popular works and a great starter for any concert with its lively, Czech-sounding rhythms and memorable tunes. The orchestra played with panache and provided some lovely woodwind playing in the slower middle section. The work isn’t particularly easy to play, especially for the strings, but the orchestra gave a splendid account of the work with some fine brass playing.

The supremely talented young clarinetist Supak Wittayanukulluk was the soloist in Weber’s popular Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor. Supak was the winner of the 2013 Thailand Clarinet Competition and is clearly a musically gifted young man. His superb performance of the Weber concerto was flawless, thoughtful and intensely musical and his articulation in the faster passages was absolutely spot-on and every nuance and turn of phrase was played with care and sensitivity. Technically it is quite a demanding concerto but Supak was in total control throughout.

During all this time, Tiffany’s stage was bedecked with Arabian themes; columns and minarets everywhere. It took some time for the penny to drop that this was in preparation for the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1888 symphonic suite “Scheherazade”. The suite is based “One Thousand and One Nights”, a collection of stories and folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. It’s Rimsky-Korsakov’s most popular orchestral work, full of dazzling and colorful orchestration, memorable melodies and catchy rhythms. It’s the kind of piece that as you’re driving home after the concert, you realise that you’re humming one of the tunes. This major work was the highlight of the concert and proved to be a stunning showcase for the orchestra. There was some lovely solo work from many of the young musicians, notably the recurring frequent violin solos accompanied beautifully on the harp.

In an Arabian Nights setting, conductor Hikotaro Yazaki rehearses with the SSMS Orchestra before the concert.In an Arabian Nights setting, conductor Hikotaro Yazaki rehearses with the SSMS Orchestra before the concert.

Conductor Hikotaro Yazaki steered the orchestra passionately through this demanding score and brought out some beautiful playing from the string section. Incidentally, Yazaki is an internationally acclaimed conductor, who originally studied mathematics at Tokyo’s Sophia University before graduating from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music as a conductor. For two years he was Assistant Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra under the famous Seiji Ozawa. Today, Hikotaro Yazaki is much in demand both in his native Japan and in Europe.

The stage at Tiffany’s Theatre is absolutely massive and can easily accommodate a 100-piece symphony orchestra. The acoustics are quite dry which means that you can hear plenty of detail and with a seating capacity of well over one thousand, Tiffany’s Theatre proved to be a splendid venue for an orchestral concert.