The future of classical music may well be in the hands of Asian musicians. Evidence of this was again demonstrated by a Thai pianist, Kwanchanok Pongpairoj, the featured soloist in Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto In G Major, which she performed in the Prince Mahidol Hall with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra on Aug 15. Kwanchanok is yet another Thai who is currently studying abroad — in her case, in Manchester, England. Her early talent was rewarded with the Valedictorian Award from the College of Music at Mahidol University and after graduation, she collected more awards, including First Prize at the Princess Galyani Vadhana International Ensemble Competition in 2014.
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), in the 1920s and 1930s, was internationally considered to be France’s greatest living composer. He liked to experiment with musical form (as in his best-known work, Bolero). As a perfectionist, he was a slow and painstaking composer, thus accounting for the fewer compositions in the face of his contemporaries. In 1928, he made a trip to America, where the new fad of jazz greatly influenced his compositions. This is very evident in his Piano Concerto In G. From its raucous opening, it soon becomes jazzy, having even traces of the blues. The Adagio, though, is hymn-like, becoming wispy as smoke wafting through the air. In the Presto, the brass is very evident and returns itself to Ravel’s jazz influences and many of the earlier themes. Capturing every nuance, from the light-fingered dreaminess to the forceful cadenzas, Kwanchanok was in total control, easily passing between the two extremes. At the conclusion of the piece, she was well-rewarded with a generous applause and with a wide smile on her face, she, too, seemed very happy with her performance. The concert also featured the well-known Symphony No.9 In E Minor (From The New World) by Antonin Dvorak. Born in Prague, in 1892 Dvorak moved to New York City and it was there that he wrote two of his most successful orchestral works. The 9th Symphony (From The New World) was premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1893 and spread his reputation worldwide. The TPO, under the able direction of Maestro Alfonso Scarano, gave a rousing performance of the piece and was further accentuated by a hymn-like peacefulness during the reverent Goin’ Home theme, including much of his work. The recognition by the audience of such a coherent performance by the TPO even garnered an encore, the ebullient Slavonic Dance No.8 by Dvorak, a fitting, toe-tapping climax to the evening. Donald Graber