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Easy listening characterizes upcoming Saigon concert
By Bradley Winterton
Friday,  Aug 17, 2018,17:22 (GMT+7)

Easy listening characterizes upcoming Saigon concert

By Bradley Winterton

Director of the Rouen Conservatory of Music Claude Brendel will lead HBSO’s upcoming concert in the Saigon Opera House on August 29 - PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

HCMC - A famous guitar concerto, a strikingly original French mass, and a ground-breaking piece of French orchestral music feature in HBSO’s concert in the Saigon Opera House on August 29.

There aren’t many concertos for guitar and orchestra, but Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez certainly leads the field.

It was composed in 1939, and the choice of a guitar as the solo instrument reflects the composer’s Spanish nationality.

The term “Aranjuez” refers to a royal palace built by the Spanish kings near Madrid in the 16th century, and expanded in the 18th century. Rodrigo said that the famous middle movement of his concerto reflected “the fragrance of magnolias, the singing of birds, and the gushing of fountains” in the Aranjuez palace gardens.

Rodrigo was almost totally blind from early childhood, but this concerto brought him international celebrity. Its middle movement, an “adagio” (meaning ‘slow’), has been played in various forms by innumerable musicians.

The most celebrated version is that by the legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Andre Rieu recorded it to the accompaniment of the church bells of Maastricht (his home town), the 1960s English rock band Deep Purple used it, and the famous Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia also recorded it.

This concerto is easy to listen to, evocative and lyrical, and its middle movement is hugely famous.

The guitar soloist in Saigon will be the French-Vietnamese musician Nguyen Thanh Hang. She studied at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Dans de Paris (‘Paris national superior conservatory of music and dance’), and now teaches and performs in France and elsewhere.

Charles Gounod’s Messe solonnelle en l’honneur de Sainte Cecile (solemn mass in honor of Saint Cecilia) in G Major, commonly known as the ‘Saint Cecilia Mass’, was written in 1855 and was the composer’s first major work. Saint Cecilia is traditionally celebrated as the patron saint of music in Europe.

The mass is written for three soloists, soprano, tenor and bass, who sing together in ensemble mode rather than individually.

The composer Saint-Saens wrote that “the appearance of the Saint Cecilia Mass caused a kind of shock. This simplicity, this grandeur, this serene light which rose before the musical world like a breaking dawn, troubled people enormously … at first one was dazzled, then charmed, then conquered.”

The text is in Latin and follows the usual form of the Roman Catholic mass, but with small additions mentioning the emperor Louis Napoleon, the French army and the French nation.

With its characteristics of simplicity and power, this work will make for easy listening almost as much as the Arunjuez concerto, thus reinforcing the impression of a particularly audience-friendly concert.

The third work, which opens the program, is Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune (prelude to the afternoon of a fawn). This famous piece of orchestral writing, though only ten minutes long, has been called a turning point in the history of music, and later formed the basis for a sensational ballet performed by the Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

The concert will be conducted by Claude Brendel, director of the Rouen Conservatory of Music. He conducted Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand in Hanoi in 2010.

Tickets are from VND650,000 and VND550,000 to VND80,000 (on production of a student card). The concert begins at 8 p.m.

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