Music for the Initiated: RECITAL “The Art of Piano Transcription” by JAYANAT WISAIJORN at the Siam Society, 8 July 2012

Music for the Initiated:

RECITAL “The Art of Piano Transcription”

by JAYANAT WISAIJORN

at the Siam Society, 8 July 2012

 

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Chetana Nagavajara

 

 

I must admit my defeat: I rarely walked out of a concert with such a confused feeling. Had I learned to play the piano, I might have been able to figure out what Jayanat was trying to communicate to his audience. I have known him for many years and still recall the image of a very young schoolboy (who had just had lessons from his teacher at the Siam Kolakarn School in Ubon Rajathani) trying to decipher Beethoven’s “Appassionata”  on an upright piano, which was not quite in tune. What transpired at the Siam Society was of a different scale: the pianissimos reminded me of Mikhaïl Pletnev and the fortissimos of Peter Donahoe, whose thundering Tchaikovsky I deliberately disparaged in my review far back in 1996.

I know Jayanat to be a very serious musician, and what he did was by design and not by default. Why did he choose to concentrate on the two extremes: either being too loud or too soft? There are worlds to explore between the two poles. As things stood, his Debussy was a little wanting in grace and elegance. Great music does not distinguish itself by dynamics alone. Mind you, Jayanat possesses phenomenal technical resources. He could have played differently, had he wanted to.

The key to the whole problem can be read out of the programme itself. Jayanat wanted to celebrate his teacher, Emile Naoumoff, and three of the latter’s transcriptions were played in one single programme. Only pianists could have distinguished one piece from another, I guess. This was music for the initiated. Normal music lovers like myself could have done with an introduction to the concert. To put it in very simple terms, most pieces sounded alike to me and to several non-pianist friends.

Strangely enough, the only piece that stood out as unique in its heart-rending simplicity  was Schubert’s “Serenade” from the “Schwanengesang”, transcribed by Franz Liszt. When I saw the name of Franz Liszt on the poster, I was hoping to hear his transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies or something in that category, but Jayanat had other ideas.

H.E. General Prem Tinasulanond, who was present, must have been pleased with the transcription of his song, “Joob Nun”. I was expecting a little more: the melody could have been repeated for the second time – with a different transcription. But this is a minor point.

One thing that convinced me from hearing Jayanat’s latest recital is that one does not need to be a prodigy or to start very early in order to develop into a distinguished musician. Jayanat’s progress has been stunningly rapid, and he has been fortunate in having inspiring teachers.

Folk tales in our Thai tradition love to relate stories about a young learner devoutly attached to a hermit, who one day tells the young man that he has mastered all that is to be mastered and that it is time for him to go and study with another teacher. Transposed to the Western context, that was what George Enesco told the young Yehudi Menuhin, namely, that Adolf Busch was the other teacher whom Menuhin should go to. There would be no need to emphasize what had become of the young Menuhin.

Jayanat will one day have to part with Naoumoff. The process of maturation in musicianship is an arduous one. Whither, after Indiana?

In the meantime, Jayanat should broaden out in various ways, technique-wise and repertoire-wise. Try Brahms’ Opus 117 next time!

 

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2 comments

  • Jayanat

    I am writing this in response to your article.

    “Why did he choose to concentrate on the two extremes: either being too loud or too soft?” I didn’t choose to concentrate on only the two extremes, but it was something that shouldn’t be ignored. It is about choosing but it is more about what is written in the score. I followed what the composers indicated in the score which I think that in order to be a serious musician, it is very important to be meticulous in every detail that the composers wrote. Switching in between two extremes are very important and is what makes music dramatic. Don’t forget that the piece that I play is Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasia after William Shakespeare’s Drama. It is such a dramatic story and the music itself is shocking. So in your opinion you think that when Tchaikovsky indicated a lot of subito in the score, I should not consider it very seriously? You think he didn’t mean it? Isn’t it important to be faithful to the score? Or the subito indicated in the score should not be taken or followed?

    “Great music does not distinguish itself by dynamics alone.” This is true, but in order to be a serious musician, isn’t it important to take what the intentions of the composers seriously? Especially when you play music written by great composers who indicated a lot of subito. I would be condemned because of being unfaithful to the score. Maybe the problem doesn’t lie on me doing too much dynamics, but it is the piece that is written that way.

    “H.E. General Prem Tinasulanond, who was present, must have been pleased with the transcription of his song, “Joob Nun”. I was expecting a little more: the melody could have been repeated for the second time – with a different transcription.” I don’t know if you notice but the melody was repeated twice.

    What about the Rachmaninoff 2nd Sonata?

  • Jayanat

    Sorry for the mistake. On the 4th line I meant “It is not about choosing but it is more about what is written in the score.”

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