A musical tribute
Bangkok Post Wednesday July 11, 2007

          This is another important year for Thais, since we are celebrating the auspicious occasion of His Majesty the King’s 80 th birthday. The year-long celebrations are being marked by all segments of Thai society, and in musical circles, we have so far enjoyed many delightful concerts featuring local and international artists, both jazz and orchestral.

          The forthcoming “Violin Concerto Sankitamankala Concert” will surely add another memorable event to the festivities. The concert will feature a concerto for violin and orchestra titled Sankitamankala (A Musical Work for an Auspicious Occasion), composed specially for the occasion by Dr Narongrit Dhamabutra, an internationally known Thai composer. The work will feature Karin-Regina Florey, the Austrian violinist, as soloist, with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra (BSO) under the baton of Rear Admiral Veeraphan Vorklang.

          The concert is scheduled for July 16 at the Thailand Cultural Centre, 8 pm, and will be graciously presided over by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

           The Sankitamankala is the first full-scale concerto for solo violin and orchestra written by a Thai composer. It is not just an historic work on the modern Thai orchestral music scene, but is also a new addition to the contemporary orchestral music repertoire the concerto offers a unique blend of large-scale concerto, in the Western orchestral tradition. Combined with the local flavour of Thai music, in which the melodies and rhythms of folk music from various regions of Thailand are incorporated.

          The composer, Narongrit, was trained as a pianist and composer in Thailand and the US, and has enjoyed a successful career for almost 20 years. He has written numerous works, including three symphonies, a concerto for orchestra, two concertos for ranard-ek (Thai wooden xylophone) and orchestra, and numerous chamber and choral works. Most of his music has been performed by leading ensembles and orchestras in the US, Europe, Australia, Asia and Thailand. Narongrit is also currently an associate professor of composition at the Music Department, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Chulalongkorn University. In addition to the Violin Concerto Sankitamankala, which is the highlight of the programme, the concert will feature some of His Majesty the King’s compositions, including the rarely heard Kinari Suite, from the music to the ballet Kinari,which will be performed by the BSO, followed by special arrangements of the King’s songs. Performed by the Resonance Chorus, one of the most well known local chorus groups.

          Narongrit talked about his new concerto in an interview with ‘Outlook’:

          How did the idea of writing a violin concerto come about ?

          As a composer, I’ve always enjoyed writing concertos. I think it’s a musical form that’s fun to listen to as well as to watch in live performance. It’s also most challenging to compose. You have to find ways to realise the potential of a solo instrument playing against the whole orchestra. The soloist is the real star of the show, and you have to find the right balance between the solo and the orchestra. A concerto featuring solo violin is even more challenging for me because the violin is a relatively small instrument compared to, say, the piano or cello, when compared to the sound of a symphony orchestra. So the balance of soloist and orchestra is all the more difficult.

          Furthermore, there are already many violin concertos in the Western orchestral music repertoire. So, as a composer, if you want to write another violin concerto, it has to be not only nice, but unique to make it worth the while of the soloist to play, as well as the audience to listen to.

          However, it was not until last year the idea came to life, when a friend of mine, Khun Sarawanee Jinayon, encouraged me to write it. She even persuaded her friend, Karin-Regina Florey, a fine professional Austrian violinist, to play the solo. The project moved forward when Miss Florey accepted the challenge, and said she would be delighted to premiere the piece in Bangkok with the BSO. It then took me around six months to complete the piece. I named it the Violin Concerto Sankitamankala, since it is my musical homage to our beloved King.

          Where did you find the inspiration ?

          Before composing the concerto, I listened to Miss Florey’s various recordings, and studied about 20 pieces from the Western orchestral concerto repertoirer; from Beethoven to Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Elgar to more contemporary masterpieces by Zymanovsky, Schittke and Gubaydulina. Basically to learn what the solo violin can do. Then I structured the piece and looked for further inspirations from my musical roots; both the traditional as well as folk music, for the musical themes and other details.

          Do you play the violin yourself ?

          No, so I had to work closely with the soloist … we exchanged ideas through emails. I have also been greatly helped by Acharn Nora-ath Chanklum, a colleague at Chula who is an excellent violinist. Both of them advised me on the potential and technical possibilities, as well as the limitations, of the solo violin.

           So how is this concerto compared to other violin concertos ?

          It’s in three movements, fast-slow-fast, with a bravura cadenza. The sound reflects a contemporary style that combines various elements found in fully developed solo concertos of the Western Romantic musical traditions; ranging from the highly virtuosic solo passages, to the intense interplay between the soloist and the orchestra.

          But within this Western musical framework, the basic music material, particularly the melodies, are uniquely Thai in spirit and sound. And for me, it’s also very interesting to hear how the Austrian violinist interprets the Thai spirit of this piece.

          What do think of your latest musical work ?

          Actually, I’m rather pleased with it so far, I mean from what I’ve read in the score and listened to from the orchestral digital simulation. But like the Bangkok audience. I will be hearing the work for the first time in the up-coming concert, which I am very much looking forward to.

I           would like to invite everyone to come and join us for the Sankitamankala concert. I believe we will have a delightful evening.

          The concert is on July 16 at the Thailand Cultural Centre at 8pm and tickets are 1,500, 1200, 900, 700 and 400 baht, and may be purchased from Thai Ticket Master at Central (Chidlom. Pin Klao, Lat Prao and Bang Na), Central World Plaza, Future Park Rangsit, Big C Ramkhamhaeng,Maung Thai Rachadalai Theatre Box office (Esplanade) and Maleenont Tower.

          For more information, call 02-262-3456 or

          Visit www.thaiticketmaster.com