Music, cultural heritage and technology came together as one for two days in Singapore with Steinway Gallery Singapore’s Pioneering Pianists of Southeast Asia initiative on June 3rd and 4th at Victoria Concert Hall.  

The events saw the much-awaited Singapore debut of renowned Filipino pianist Raul Sunico and the famed Thai composer-pianist Nat Yontararak, and the launch of Steinway’s new Spirio|r in Singapore. This was also the first time that the Spirio|r has been performed on in a solo recital in the Southeast Asian region, if not the world.

The unveiling of the Steinway Spirio r by Steinway Gallery Singapore’s Dennis Chiam & Benjamin Shaw 

Audiences for the concerts were treated a rich variety of music from both the region and the Western classical repertoire, on this platform that recognises the efforts of a generation of pianists who have established a presence for the region in the international music scene through their pianism and advocacy of cultural heritage through the piano.

In her welcome speech on both nights, Celine Goh, General manager of Steinway Gallery Singapore, noted how Pioneering Pianists of Southeast Asia showcased the rich cultural music heritage from the Philippines and Thailand.

“Through this cultural exchange experience, we hope to cultivate a greater sense of local cultural identity in our younger generations and to develop cultural intelligence through music,” she added, before she introduced the Spirio|r in the unveiling of Steinway’s finest high resolution player piano capable of live performance.

The unveiling of the Steinway Spirio r by Steinway Gallery Singapore’s Dennis Chiam & Benjamin Shaw 

 Sunico’s Love Letters from Home featured the pianist in a programme of well-known works from the Romantic repertoire by Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Liszt and Albeniz capped by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in a performance which The Straits Times called a “no-holds-barred reading.”

Performance by Steinway Artist Dr.Raul Sunico

Master of Ceremony: Ms. Cristina Anna Villonco

Particularly memorable was Sunico’s selection of his own arrangements of well known of Filipino songs as well as original Filipino compositions. In line with the intent of Pioneering Pianists of Southeast Asia and as The Straits Times veteran music critic Dr.Chang Tou Liang mentioned: “He ruled the stage in seven Filipino song transcriptions, three originals and four by his own hand. Totally at ease in this idiom, this was easily the most memorable part of the evening.

Well-known Filipino actress Cristina Ann Villonco was the emcee for the night, and also delighted the audience with her singing as two encore pieces, one of which was the classic Mutag Ng Pasig song, which tells about the sad fate of a woman who appears in the Pasig River during the full moon. 

Sunico’s concert was attended by Guest Of Honour Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Ms.Sim Ann and the Ambassador of the Philippines to Singapore, His Excellency Joseph Del Mar Yap.

From Left to Right:
Mr. Alexander Melchers, Director of C. Melchers GmbH & Co | Ms. Celine Goh, General Manager of Steinway Gallery Singapore | Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Communications and Information | Steinway Artist Dr. Raul M. Sunico | His Excellency Ambassador Joseph Del Mar Yap

Yontararak’s concert on the following night, Light of My Homeland, featured a programme of technically demanding original works by Yontararak himself, folk songs and a selection of his own transcriptions of the late King Rama IX’s songs.

Performance by Steinway Artist Nat Yontararak

Yontararak dazzled audiences with his crystalline technique that showed no signs of letting up in a 90 minute-long concert that also featured Thai traditional dancers at certain sections of the music to enhance his musical concepts. The Ambassador of Thailand to Singapore, His Excellency Ambassador Manopchai Vongphakdi, graced the event.

Dancers from Christian Communications Institute (CCI) 

Left to Right:
Lukasz Kurzydlo (Percussions) | Pana Yontararak (Pianist) | Ms. Celine Goh (General Manager of Steinway Gallery Singapore) | Sugar Yontararak (Master of Ceremony and Vocalist) | His Excellency Ambassador Manopchai | Steinway Artist Nat Yontararak | Mr. Alexander Melchers (Director of C. Melchers GmbH & Co) | Dancers of Christian Communications Institute | Paranee and Pinnaree Yontararak

 A highlight of both the recitals was how both the pianists made use of and showcased the capabilities of the Spirio|r , at present the world’s finest high-resolution player piano capable of live performance capture and playback.

Here, Sunico opted to display how the Spirio|r can play a role for those wishing to learn and perform the two-piano repertoire. Choosing the “Braziliera” from Milhaud’s Scaramouche for two pianos, Sunico performed ‘live’ the first piano part on another Steinway to a pre-recorded  second piano part which he had made on the Spirio|r just the day before.  Sunico followed this with a two piano arrangement of the Filipino song “Sarangolani Pepe”.  Sunico’s performances on two pianos (one with the Spirio|r) here showcased how this latest development in piano technology plays a role in both the teaching and practice of the standard repertoire as well as preservation and propagation of cultural heritage.

Steinway Artist Dr. Raul Sunico performing 4 hand duo to his own recording on the Steinway Spirio r

 For Yontararak, the choice of repertoire focused exclusively on Thai musical heritage and on music for piano duet. Using the Spirio|r  only, Yontararak’s concert featured his son Pana playing the primo part of a Yontararak’s arrangement of the late Thai statesman Prem Tinsolanunda’s  Gratitude to the Homeland  to a second part which Yontararak himself had recorded two days earlier. In this demonstration, Yontararak showed how musical heritage as well as the practice of piano duets could be passed on.

A similar feat was repeated through Yontararak’s own arrangement of the Thai children’s folk son Chang Chang Chang in which his youngest daughter Pinnaree performed the primo part to the secondo which his eldest daughter Paranee had earlier recorded. Paranee also gave a demonstration of the piano’s editing capabilities during the concert.

Pana Yontararak performing 4 hands duo to his father’s (Nat Yontararak) recording on the latest Steinway Spirio r

Paranee & Pinnaree Yontararak performing the Thai children’s folk son Chang Chang Chang while demonstrating on the Spirio r’s editing capabilities 

To round up the talented family’s presentation for the night, Yontararak’s wife, Pawongduen “Sugar” Yontararak, who was also the emcee for the night’s proceedings, then sang ‘’ Longing for you” as the encore, a song composed and written by Yontararak for her more than 20 years ago.

Master of Ceremony: Pawongduen (Sugar) Yontararak 

 The near capacity house for both nights at the Victoria Concert Hall and the subsequent interest shown by the audience at the post concert demonstration on the Spirio|r was evidence of how technology and heritage can indeed be fused into a seamless whole and the symbiotic relationship between the two

Meet & Greet Session with Steinway Artist Dr. Raul Sunico 

Meet & Greet Session with Steinway Artist Nat Yontararak. 

SPIRIO | r

The STEINWAY SPIRIO | r is the world’s finest high resolution player piano capable of live performance capture and playback. A revolutionary blend of artistry, craftsmanship, and technology, SPIRIO r provides powerful new tools of expression and new ways to access, share and experience performance — enriching connection and intimacy.

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