An enthusiastic audience recently welcomed three young musicians from Bangkok to Ben’s Theatre. The enthusiasm wasn’t surprising, as they’ve all played at Ben’s in the past. I have lost count of the number of times countertenor Potprecha (Jak) Cholvijarn has performed there, accompanied by the ever-reliable pianist Morakot Cherdchoo-ngarm. Recently they were joined by soprano Manasanun (Angel) Aksornteang (soprano) who has performed three times before.
Their program covered a wide range of styles from the music of Handel to contemporary composers. Jak Cholvijarn was in top form to kick off the concert with a powerful rendition of Mozart’s aria Al mio ben mi veggio avanti unknown opera Ascanius in Alba composed when Mozart was only fifteen years old. Jak gave a dramatic rendition of the tune which contrasted well with Debussy’s lyrical style. Star night. In addition to the solo songs, the program also included a few duets, the first of which was the aria Bist du bei mir by Baroque composer Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. Although his music is rarely heard today, he was well known in his day and a contemporary of JS Bach. This tune became famous and Jak and Angel gave a wonderful performance with perfect intonation and well blended vocals. The pianissimo the sections were particularly beautiful.
One of the musical highlights of the evening, at least for me, was Robert Schumann’s group of four songs, Frauenliebe and Leben which Angel sang superbly. The songs are calm and thoughtful and Angel brought out these qualities with his beautifully controlled voice in which his tone quality, vibrato and intonation were excellent. Her stage presence also helped a lot, as she always looked confident and natural. Pianist Morakot was particularly effective in these Schumann songs and provided a sensitive and carefully crafted interpretation. I’m always impressed by Morakot’s ability to move from one musical style to another effortlessly and he excels in the art of accompaniment.
Jak returned to the stage for two contrasting songs, that of Franz Schubert A den world, a setting of Goethe’s poem of the same name. Jak provided a thoughtful rendition of this lyrical song and it was contrasted with a dramatic rendition by Henri Duparc An invitation to travel. With lyrics by Charles Baudelaire, this is one of Duparc’s most memorable songs and Jak brought out the drama in the lyrics. I was also impressed by her excellent vocal timbre. Jak & Angel concluded the first half of the concert with another duo, the well-known staging of Angelica Panis by César Franck, perhaps the composer’s most famous work. Their singing was lovely, with beautifully blended voices.
Angel holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Chulalongkorn University and she received her bachelor’s degree from the College of Music, Mahidol University. She studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and recently became a faculty member of the voice department of the College of Music at Mahidol University.
In 2019, Jak completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol in the UK. He has appeared as a soloist for Opera Siam (Bangkok Opera), Siam Philharmonic and Siam Sinfonietta on many occasions. Composer Somtow Sucharitkul cast him as Buddha in six episodes of his musical drama Ten Lives of the Buddha. Jak did the European tour of The Silent Prince performing the title role in Bayreuth, Prague and Brno. With Grand Opera Thailand, Jak has sung in concerts for the European Union Delegation, as well as for many Embassies in Bangkok.
Morakot is not only a splendid and reliable accompanist but also a composer and arranger. He was commissioned to compose the music for the 100th birthday of the eminent Thai artist Fua Haripitak and for several other prestigious events. His compositions have been performed at festivals in Singapore and Peru as well as the Thailand Flute Festival, the Thailand Brass and Percussion Conference, the Thailand International Composition Festival and the Thailand International Wind Symphony Competition.
After the interval, Jak opened the second half with one of John Dowland’s most famous songs, Come back, sweet love invites now. It is written in the composer’s typical melancholy style and first appeared in Dowland’s First songbook from 1597. Jak has sung this beautiful song many times and to me his voice seems just right for Dowland’s bittersweet music. Angel gave a passionate rendition of Hugo Wolf’s song Verborgenheit. It comes from a set of around fifty songs collectively titled Morike-Lieder, which cemented Wolf’s recognition in Austria as a vocal composer. Angel gave an impressive performance with clear diction and perfect intonation throughout. She then sang the charming Morakot song, The wine goes in the mouthan attractive setting of the verses of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats which Angel interpreted in style.
Jak then sang the five songs titled Dreams of Kyoto which were composed for him a few years ago. He gave a thoughtful performance that reflected the melancholic nature of the words. In contrast, Angel sang the catchy Taylor the milk boy, a song by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, obviously based on their experience with a waiter at Starbucks. Jak sang the lovely old Scottish song known as The Song of the Skye Boat with his usual care and Angel gave an accurate, albeit rather polite, performance of Wouldn’t it be in love of the musical my lovely lady.
The concert ended with a baroque air, a style that seems to suit the two singers best. It was the aria Flow of pleasure of Handel’s much-admired dramatic oratorio of 1750, Theodora. Jak and Angel delivered a feisty performance, with a superb vocal mix and confident singing in the contrapuntal sections. It made a fitting and inspiring end to a delightful evening.