Saturday, September 4, 2010

Making History Unawares

Today was the first rehearsal for our concert next week and I assumed that the Tchaikovsky concerto would be very difficult as it's got a lot of rubato. I assumed that Brahms 3 would be a breeze because after all, every knows Brahms 3.  It's only one of the most famous symphonies in the whole world.

To my surprise, they had little trouble with the Tchaikovsky.  But the opening of Brahms 3 was an astonishing shambles.  It dawned on me that the orchestra was sight reading music that they had never heard in their lives.  After a few attempts, they began to grasp it very quickly but the first 15 minutes were terrifying....

To someone who grew up completely drenched in the classical repertoire this was a revelation.  The members of the orchestra started saying to me, "Yes ... it's true.  We've played Brahms 1,2, and 4 many times.  But not 3."  They started racking their collective brains.  No one, not even the oldest members who have been around since classical music started being played in Thailand ... could recall ANY instance of ANY Thai orchestra performing this symphony.

I am scheduling some orchestra overtime so that they can really come to grips with this work.  But it seems that, without meaning to, the Siam Philharmonic is again making history.  When we do the Mahler symphonies, we know very well that we are invading new territory.  This was meant to be a concert of very familiar romantic works which would not tax the orchestra too much after the strenuous work of Mahler 3.

To explore a great classic through the eyes of people who have never played or heard it before is an incredible privilege.  I feel blessed that the Muses have given me this opportunity.  It may not be a technically perfect performance on Wednesday but I am sure the "Spielfreude" will be very powerful.

I sincerely hope that all of you will come to the concert (Wednesday night, 8 pm, Thailand Cultural Center).


  1. I attended the performance last night and I hope that you are pleased with the result. I enjoyed it a great deal and I felt that the Brahms was the strongest portion. You certainly didn't appear stressed and the musicians seemed to have fun. I think that I actually saw a difference in their body language during the Brahms which came across as real enthusiasm. Thank you for all your hard work. Kristopher

  2. hi just wanted to let you know that your link on the right sidebar under "Encyclopedia Entry on Somtow" is being diverted to a URL which seems unrelated surely? (hxxp:robinnixon dot com)

    Apologies that this has nothing to do with the Siam Philharmonic, who I'm sure were wonderful on the night...