In conjunction with the Pianists of Southeast Asia series of concerts, as well as the launch of the Steinway Spirio|r, Steinway Gallery Singapore has organised a dialogue session with pianists Dr. Raul Sunico from the Phillippines, and Nat Yontararak from Thailand. They are joined by music educator Lena Ching, and moderated by young Steinway artiste Abigial Sin.
In the session, both Dr. Sunico and Yontararak shared how they blended the piano, a western instrument, and the folk music of their respective countries, and also how technology has helped with music production and teaching.
Dr. Sunico shared with us that he came across a recording of Beatle’s songs played in the style of different classical musicians, and was inspired to do likewise with Filipino love songs.
His piano career really started when one day, he was asked to be the replacement pianist for someone who got sick. The performance was meant to be for the late President Marcos’s birthday, and the experience led him to meet with Mrs. Marcos, who later offered him a scholarship at Julliard School at New York.
Yontararak is best known for his arrangements of the music by the late Thai king Bhumibol, as well as works based on Thai folk songs. Yontararak mentioned that he did not formally study composition, but was “forced into it by circumstances” when he needed to perform in a concert platform in Thailand. Back then, there was no other arrangements of Thai folk music made for the piano.
Also discussed was how new technology, such as the Spirio|r helps in music education. We were told that, unlike a regular recording of a piano performance played through loudspeakers, the Spirio|r is able to reproduce all the nuances of touch, and pedal work, and the sound is being produced by a real piano. Being able to instantly listen to what you’ve just played lets the pianist adjust and fine-tune his playing to perfection.
The Steinway Spirio|r is controlled wirelessly by an iPad, which allows you to edit every single note and pedalling after recording. Wrong notes and timing errors can be easily corrected in the app. There is also a large library of recordings by Steinway artists around the world which you can call up to play on the Spirio|r, letting you have, say, Lang Lang playing in your living room.
After the session, we were treated to a demonstration of the Steinway Spirio|r. The first demo was by Yontararak, who played the Secondo of a duet titled “Born in Gratitude to Our Homeland”, composed by the late Thai Premier Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda. His son, Pana Nathan Yontararak , played the Primo section on another piano nearby.
Pana then played the Primo again, this time on the Spirio|r, with the father’s Secondo being played on the Spirio|r from the earlier recording. Here’s a video recording of the performance.
Later in the afternoon, a guest played a medley of three Singaporean tunes, and dedicated the performance to Yontararak.
Dr. Raul Sunico and Nat Yontararak will be performing on 3rd and 4th June 2019 respectively, at 7:30pm at the Victoria Concert Hall. Tickets for Dr. Raul’s concert are sold out, but tickets for Yontararak are still available.
Thanks to Steinway Gallery and Ms. Sharon Cheah for inviting me to the session.