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Serious music at the forefront with HBSO

By Bradley Winterton

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HCMC – Two composers could hardly be more different that Mendelssohn and Prokofiev, though it’s also true they have some features in common. The concert by the HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO), in combining the two composers, is sure to create a memorable experience.

It’s on January 3, 2023 at the Saigon Opera House and features Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto.

Mendelssohn and Prokofiev are different in that the former is frivolous, high-spirited, lyrical and invariably tuneful, whereas the latter is given to experimentation with the tenets of modernism, with vigorous clamour where you might have expected melodies. What they have in common is a rejection of the heavy-weight in all its forms, rejecting the manner of both Brahms and Shostakovich.

Prokofiev worked on his Piano Concerto No. 2 from before the First World War but the score was lost in a fire. The composer didn’t return to it till after he had completed his Piano Concerto No. 3 (so that he commented that it felt like a Concerto No. 4 to him). The premier was in 1924 with Prokofiev as soloist and Koussevitzky (a Russian-born composer who spent many years in the U.S.) conducting.

It is strange that the first notable recording wasn’t until 1953, though since then there has been an important recording of the work almost every year.

The work is in four movements, though an “Intermezzo” makes it feel like five. Many classical techniques, such as the use of the scherzo, the recapitulation, and the cadenza are included, if at times slightly mockingly.

When considering the variety contained in this concerto, it should be remembered that Prokofiev composed operas, ballet music, chamber music and orchestral work, all evidence of a vigorous and productive mind.

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto is probably the best-loved violin concerto ever written, and every violin student needs to master it.

The music is lyrical through and through, with each movement following the previous one with scarcely a break. The unconventional introduction of the violin early in the first movement gives the impression of a tremendous enthusiasm and a lovable eagerness to get started.

The violin soloist in the Mendelssohn will be Cao Hoang Linh was born in Moscow but was soon studying back in Vietnam, currently under meritorious artist Bui Cong Duy. Hoang Linh has won first prize in competitions in Russia, Thailand, the UK and Greece, and has performed in London’s Royal Albert Hall, as well as being given (in 2017) the Vietnamese Young Talent Classical Music Award.

Pianist Tran Le Bao Quyen was born in Hanoi and subsequently studied in, among other places, Damstadt. She is currently studying under the direction of Sabine Simon and Henn Sigfridsson.

The concert will be conducted by Tran Nhat Minh, the Head and Chorusmaster of HBSO Opera.

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