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Hitting the right note

Thailand's top youth orchestra Siam Sinfonietta heads off on a European tour and also to participate in Austria's international youth fest

Billed as "a different kind of youth orchestra", Thailand's Siam Sinfonietta is off to Europe later this week to delight classical music lovers in Germany and the Czech Republic before heading to Austria to take part in the prestigious "Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival Vienna",

"Siam Sinfonietta is the salt of our youth. Their vigour and passion dominates," says renowned composer and conductor Somtow Sucharitkul, after the recent "Singha Corporation & Siam Sinfonietta" at Boonrawd Brewery.

Accompanied by two conductors, 54 of the youth orchestra musicians are flying to Germany on Thursday night. After a good night's sleep, they're booked to perform Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" at Cuvillies Theatre of the Munich Residenz, the theatre where the great composer premiered it in 1781 and also at Clara Wieck Schumann's hall at University of Frankfurt. Siam Sinfonietta's visit is at the invitation at the Embassy of Thailand in Germany and celebrates the 150th anniversary of Thai-German diplomatic relations.

The orchestra then travels to the Czech Republic where they'll perform the country's compositions, as well as Thai pieces by Somtow and band leader Natthapong "Jay" Yutthanasirikul and a royal repertoire.

"These concerts are good rehearsals for them," says Somtow.

Then comes the climax of the European trip: participating in the competition that's part Vienna's global festival and is hosted by Vienna International Association for Music and Culture Exchange. The event takes place at Golden Hall of the Musikverein from July 7 to 11 and its aims are to provide a unique platform for the world’s most talented youth choirs, bands and orchestras as well as to set new standards in the festival arena.

For the competition, Siam Sinfonietta will be sharing the stage with three international orchestras from the United States, Denmark and Australia.

"The competitors are very good," says Somtow, who's been watching them on YouTube. "But, our programme will surprise the foreigners. We will perform Gustav Mahler's composition in a distinctive version that has never been heard by the Austrian people and Trisdee na Patalung's piece with the 'pee java' [Javanese wind instrument]. It is rather challenging."

Formed two years ago by Somtow, Siam Sinfonietta is specifically designed for youngsters determined to make a career in classical music. All the musicians are aged 20 or younger and play as well as professional orchestras. They receive a full scholarship.

"They have something special that makes me trust in their talent and want do something for them," Somtow says.

Aside from plenty of rehearsal, each musician is expected to follow history classes to better understand the background of classical music.

"I also use my own way of teaching, telling a tale of what each note means and the thinking of people in different eras," says the maestro.



LET'S TALK MUSIC

Natthapong Yutthanasirikul, orchestra leader and violinist

"The leader's duty is to communicate with other musicians and the conductor and make all musicians perform in the same direction. I love writing music. We will be performing one of my compositions in Europe. It's called 'Canopus', which is the name of the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina and Argo Navis."

Nichapa Nilkaew, cellist

"The cello's deep and warm tone makes me feel happy. My goal is to go abroad for my master's degree and to perform in foreign countries. Then, I would like to come back to teach Thai children."

Padol Sopacharoen, |double bassist

"My fingers used to hurt quite badly at the beginning because of the strings of the double bass are much bigger than the guitar's. Now, I'm fascinated by the instrument."

Nath Khamnark, trombonist

"Performing together with foreign musicians helps me find the differences in the interpretation of music. Foreign musicians have the same standard in interpretation and notes."

Tharit Korthammarit, horn player

"The horn can produce varied sounds. Nowadays, there are many more of people paying attention to this instrument."

Panthit Rojwatham, percussionist

"Percussion instruments are most commonly divided into two classes of tuned and untuned percussion instruments. Tuned percussion is hard for me to learn, especially in terms of intonation and harmony like the timpani."



Tanakan Theerasuntornvat, bassoonist

"Many people pay attention to this instrument but only a few play it because of its high cost. Going out of the country is giving me a chance to broaden my view."


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