Saturday, August 13, 2011

Concert At Mahidol University, Bangkok

That's "ma-hee-dohn" university. In Thai, there are eight letters or so that turn into the sound of an "N" at the end of a word, and the Thai equivalent of "L" is one of them. Just in case you wanted to know.

It's a great music school. Today I spoke on the bus to a guy who teaches oboe at Illinois State and he told me that Mahidol was even bigger than Indiana State for music, and Indiana is the biggest in America. Today's program was a featured guitarist playing a lute concerto by Vivaldi and a guitar concerto by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, no relation to the Tedesco that I seem to remember was a session guitarist in New York back when. Tony Tedesco or something, I should Google it. The program ended with Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.

This was the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, about ninety strong for the Scriabin, and about twenty percent of them are Mahidol students. I'm no connoisseur, but I think they are a very good orchestra.

The guitarist I won't name, because I am going to complain about him. He played the lute piece with very light attack and weak tone. The guitar piece showed a little more attack, but with correspondingly more botched fingerings. He played an encore, a solo piece that he dedicated to his wife, and that went a little better. He put more heart and soul into it and did a better job all around. Maybe the other pieces were new to him. But he was still brushing at the guitar like he was afraid to break a string, and that's not the way to great tone in my experience.

The Scriabin was very much to my liking all around. The notes described reaction at the time as more hostile than not; someone said that it should be called "The Second Cacophony." But I love these emotional, passionate Russian composers, and this was right up my alley. I wondered if they used this as the soundtrack for those Flash Gordon serials in the 'Thirties. A lot of it sounded like those rocket sled chases through the canyons of Mongo. And complete with the cliff-hangers, and the gong! Here comes Ming! "I'll get you Flash Gordon!" All very busy and menacing, dark and triumphant and a little bit odd.

These tickets cost me nine bucks apiece, and they are a great bargain at that, and a real blessing.

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