Epic soundtracks come to life
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Epic soundtracks come to life

Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra hits the winning formula with total Hans Zimmer immersion

Epic soundtracks come to life

The Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra's increasing reputation for hitting the winning formula to draw in audiences was further boosted recently at the Thailand Cultural Centre where, for two consecutive nights, they performed to a completely packed house. Supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and B.Grimm, tickets for "Hollywood Soundtracks By Hans Zimmer" had sold out weeks in advance and a second show was added due to demand. The massive concert hall is not easy to fill on any occasion, so the RBSO should feel proud to have achieved this two nights running.

Hans Zimmer has captivated film audiences with his brand of ground-breaking soundtrack production for decades. And so crowds were treated to a feast from his unparalleled career at the top of his field, all conducted expertly by Vanich Potavanich, who truly is a master of delivering this type of programme. His passionately forceful, energetic style of conducting was certainly a perfect match for the opening number, Gladiator Suite, which immediately showed off the RBSO's impressive range, from quiet introspection to raging outbursts of ferocity.

Utterly emblematic of how Zimmer operates from his luxurious, self-owned Los Angeles recording studio -- alongside his large team of hand-selected orchestrators and arrangers -- he took inspiration from Gustav Holst's iconic Mars, The Bringer Of War. Lavishly re-orchestrated and arranged to even more menacing effect, the potent themes were as if they were put on steroids, with the proverbial volume knob turned up to 11. This was a truly exhilarating cinematic soundscape with which to begin proceedings, immediately drawing both audiences into Zimmer's irresistible creative universe.

Thai fiddle (sor duang) player Sasivimol Homsombat.

Conductor Vanich Potavanich.

The pacing of the setlist was well thought out, and Oogway Ascends (Kung Fu Panda) was an ideal contrasting follow-up tune -- calm, soothing and serene. Thai fiddle (sor duang) player Sasivimol Homsombat was warmly received as the soloist for this touching tune, as she took her place in front of the orchestra and mesmerised the hall with her delicate instrument's sweet, yearning tone. Indeed, Zimmer's use of all manner of exotic instruments is central to his eclectic approach in his never-ending search for new timbres and combinations. Minimalism is also a principal compositional method that he regularly employs (in the manner of American composers such as Philip Glass and John Adams), demonstrated well by Woad To Ruin (King Arthur), with its insistent dotted rhythmic ostinatos throughout the orchestral texture played accurately by the RBSO.

There You'll Be (Pearl Harbor) was the first sung item of the evening, as popular female vocalist Natthika Iamthamai changed the pace with this emotionally charged song by Diane Warren, although Zimmer was, of course, responsible for the overall musical production of the movie. However, of all his scores, perhaps those from the Pirates Of The Caribbean epics are the most universally known and loved, and the excitement level in the auditorium really heightened for The Curse Of The Black Pearl just before the interval and then Dead Man's Chest to open the second half.

All players thoroughly enjoyed their immersion in the constant flow of inspired, memorable themes, catchy interweaving rhythms and the atmosphere generally. Principal cellist Apichai Leamthong played his Jack Sparrow solos clearly and with a sure sense of the jovial folkish style, whilst the bassoon's humorous stilted-waltz pattern at the start of Dead Man's Chest was played to perfection.

Apichai continued to shine in The Dark Knight Trilogy Suite (from Christopher Nolan's Batman movies), capturing the brooding, deeply introspective timbre very well. The conductor duly brought him to his feet to receive deserved applause. The minimalist streak in Zimmer's persona was again essential to his portrayal of Batman, and the insistent, repeating figurations were layered with an engrossing precision.

Interstellar Suite and Dune – Paul's Dream are both characterised by otherworldly, grandiose aural landscapes. In the former, Phanuphong Thongkham played the alarmingly unexpected cathedral organ part, whilst the latter featured the soaring electric guitar of Thanaphot Bhumiphak and a truly spectacular, quite extraordinary vocalisation by Chomwilai Johanngoa. Backed up by a full mixed choir, all concerned were rewarded with huge cheers of appreciation.

Kemawat Rungtum and Natthika Iamthamai.

When You Believe (The Prince Of Egypt) by Stephen Schwartz then welcomed the stunning Natthika back onstage alongside heartthrob Kemawat Rungtum for a duet ballad somewhat more conventional in nature, thus suitably paving the way for the celebratory final item -- The Lion King Selection. Elton John's collaboration with Zimmer for this record-breaking musical is, of course, the stuff of theatrical legend, and on both evenings, the near-deafening roars and ovations of approval were of the kind I have never encountered before in the TCC. From Worapon Kanweerayothin's exquisitely quiet recorder solo to the full ensemble chorus of The Circle Of Life, winning formulas most certainly do speak for themselves.

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