Friday,  Mar 23,2018,16:15 (GMT+7)

Star violinist returns to Saigon

Bradley Winterton
Tuesday,  Mar 13,2018,23:28 (GMT+7)
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Star violinist returns to Saigon

Bradley Winterton

Violinist Bui Cong Duy - PHOTO: TL

Sunday, March 18, sees an important concert from the HCMC Ballet and Symphony Orchestra (HBSO). It consists of two major 19th century concertos for string instruments, the first for violin by Max Bruch, the second for cello by Camille Saint-Saens.

But what will probably catch the eye of Saigon’s concert-goers is that the first soloist will be Vietnam’s acclaimed violinist Bui Cong Duy.

Though nowadays a resident in Hanoi, Bui Cong Duy is a frequent visitor to the Saigon Opera House, where this concert will take place, beginning at 8pm. He was here, for example, in August 2016 for a series of Vietnam Connection events. Then he played, among other things, the solo violin part in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No:4 and one of the two solo violins in the same composer’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin, arranged for two violins. An article on these events appeared in The Saigon Times Daily on August 12, 2016.

Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto is the composer’s most popular work. He completed it in 1866, but it’s the revised version, made with the help of the legendary Hungarian violin virtuoso and friend of Brahms Joseph Joachim, that is most often heard today. The concerto has a memorably melodic slow movement, and a rapid and virtuosic final movement.

Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto was completed in 1872 and is, unusually, in one continuous movement. This movement, however, is divided into three sections, making it comparable in form to the usual three-movement concerto.

It’s reputedly very difficult to play, and the task in Saigon on Sunday will fall to the Russian-born cellist Dmitri Feygin. Born in 1968, he is currently Professor of Cello at the Tokyo Music Conservatory. His cello sound, wrote one Hungarian critic, is noble, without excess of emphasis, yet of great emotional intensity where necessary.

The program will be completed with two short Russian works, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet. In charge of proceedings will be conductor Le Ha My.

Max Bruch was an interesting figure, even though he never achieved the status of such German contemporaries as Brahms, Liszt or Wagner. Because he wrote some pieces with Jewish themes, Germany’s Nazis assumed he must have been Jewish and shamefully banned his works. His music actually stands in the central Romantic tradition, like Brahms’s, avoiding the “progressive” tendency of Liszt and Wagner.

Like many a freelance, Max Bruch suffered financial difficulties from time to time. This influenced the fate of the manuscript of his Violin Concerto. In order to raise some money he passed it to two musicians in the U.S., asking them to try to sell it for him. But he never received anything in the way of payment, and the manuscript is now considered as “lost”.

One curious feature of his life is that he worked for three years (1880 to 1883) in Liverpool, UK, where he was a conductor with the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. After his death in 1920 his daughter had the following words inscribed on his gravestone: “Music is the language of God”.

This enticing concert, then, will contrast two notable 19th century concertos, played by two highly talented virtuosos. Bui Cong Duy’s presence alone will probably ensure tickets are hard to come by.

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