HCMC – The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) will present a Friendship Concert in collaboration with the Vietnam-US Friendship Association in HCMC in the Saigon Opera House on May 28. It contains three HCMC premieres.
The American side is represented by an overture by Leonard Bernstein, a famous short work by the composer John Adams, and a recent work by the Vietnamese-born composer P.Q. Phan, who lives in the U.S. and in whose Poeme et Danse the solo pianist will be Vincent Adragna. Adragna spent several years as Assistant Professor at the Indiana University, Bloomington, as well as subsequently working in Paris and New Caledonia. Finally, violinist Chuong Vu is the concert-master of the San Angelo Symphony Orchestra in Texas.
The Ho Chi Mih City premieres will be the P.Q. Phan work, composed in 2018, Gabriel Faure’s Volin Concerto in D Minor, and John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine.
The concert opens with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture from Candide (1956). The work is an essay in musical pastiche, incorporating innumerable American styles from jazz to the tango. The story is taken from a novella by the French Enlightenment philosopher who adopted the pseudonym “Voltaire”.
Bernstein was one of the most striking figures on the 20th century American musical scene. He is best-known for his musical West Side Story (1957) and his conducting a complete cycle of Mahler’s symphonies. He was the first American conductor to be invited to conduct at La Scala, the famous opera house in Milan, Italy.
It isn’t surprising that the performance of Faure’s Violin Concerto in D Minor will be a Ho Chi Minh City premiere. Classical concertos usually have three movements but this only has one. The last movement was never written, and whereas the slow second movement was performed in 1878 the score has now been lost.
The soloist will be Chuong Vu, about your Saigon Times critic wrote in 2018 that he is “an instrumentalist to treasure. Not only does he play with exquisite tone and superb technical virtuosity, but he also clearly loves the music, and loves playing it.”
P.Q. Phan (Phan Quang Phuc) was born in 1962 in Da Nang and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 20. He is well-known as one of the leading composers of contemporary music and has a special relationship with the Kronos Quartet. He won a Rome Prize (given by the American Academy in Rome to around 30 artists a year) in 1998.
The American composer John Adams is famous for operas such as Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). His Short Ride in a Fast Machine is a 1986 work evoking the thrill and danger of riding in a fast sports car at night. With its repetitive rhythms and fast-moving melodic changes, it’s one of his most frequently performed compositions. It lasts for four minutes.
Jacques Offenbach is a celebrated composer of operettas. The energetic overture to one of these, Orpheus in the Underworld (1858), features next. It is a comic and satirical opera, and its overture contains, near the end, the famous Can-can.
Lastly we will hear the L’Arlesienne Suite Number 2 by Bizet. Bizet composed this incidental music for a play by Alphonse Daudet, translated into English as The Young Girl from Arles. Arles is a town in France, and the young girl is actually never seen in the drama.
Bizet wrote two collections of this incidental music, though the second (which we shall hear in Saigon) was only completed after his death and contains a small amount of other music by Bizet. He is of course most famous as the composer of the opera Carmen, and this second suite only achieved real success in 1885 – Carmen was first performed in 1875.
Tickets are from VND400,000 to VND750,000, with a special concession of VND80,000 for students. The concert, which will be conducted by Honna Tetsuji, begins at 8:00 p.m.