Premiere Performance and Recording of Paul Chihara’s Piano Concerto-Fantasie for Piano and Chamber Orchestra
ABOUT THE PIANO CONCERTO
"For four years, I listened to the popular music of the people of South Vietnam, while composing a popular television series (“China Beach”) about the United States nurses serving during the tragic Vietnam War. The scripts were based on the stories, interviews, and memoirs of the actual nurses themselves who had survived and returned to the States, as well as stories told to us by South Vietnamese survivors, soldiers, family members, and other civilians who had escaped and immigrated to the United States, living mostly in Southern California just south of Los Angeles in what became known as “Little Saigon.” The music that they brought with them, in recording and in their recollections were often heart-breaking, lyric, tonal, and deeply emotional. I took down in dictation what I heard from them, and eventually wrote a melody based on the fragments of melodies that had somehow survived in pieces in their memories. This melody has haunted me ever since the eighties when I composed this series, and has been growing in my imagination. I now have begun thinking of it as the musical germ for a new piano concerto – or Fantasy based on this supposed Vietnamese pop song. And I have found the perfect performer for this project: Ms. Quynh Nguyen, a brilliant virtuoso pianist born in Hanoi and musically trained in America and in Paris, who can bring life and tragic meaning to this melody."
ABOUT THE COMPOSER:
Japanese-American composer Paul Chihara has been described as one of America’s most important composers of his generation. Well-versed in music for film as well as in the classical realm, Mr. Chihara’s prize-winning concert works have been performed in most major cities and art centers in the U.S. and Europe. His numerous commissions and awards include those The Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Fellowship, the Aaron Copland Fund, and the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Active the ballet world, Mr. Chihara was composer-in-residence at the San Francisco Ballet from 1973-1986.While there, he wrote many trailblazing works, including Shin-ju (based on “the lover’s suicide” play by the great Japanese dramatist Chikamatsu), as well as the first full length American ballet, The Tempest. He has also composed music for over 100 films and movies.
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ABOUT THE ORCHESTRA:
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, renowned for fresh, brilliant interpretations of the world’s greatest orchestral music.
Formed by Sir Neville Marriner in 1958 from a group of leading London musicians, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church in November 1959. Through unrivalled live performances and a vast recording output – highlights of which include the 1969 best-seller Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film Amadeus – the Academy quickly gained an enviable international reputation for its distinctive, polished and refined sound. With over 500 releases in a much-vaunted discography and a comprehensive international touring programme, the name and sound of the Academy is known and loved by classical audiences throughout the world.
ABOUT THE SOLOIST:
Praised by the Boston Globe as “a musical and expressive player” who is “sensitive and poetic,” who “knows how to make (the music) dazzle with lively rhythm, piquant inflexions, and dashing virtuosity,” Vietnamese-American pianist Quynh Nguyen was selected as one of the "19 young stars of tomorrow" by Musical America. For her Carnegie Hall performance, the New York Concert Review commends: “She is a real artist, a wonderfully communicative performer …What a compendium of intellect, sophistication and taste!”
Ms. Quynh Nguyen has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Vietnam including Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France, in notable concert venues such as Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, McEvoy Auditorium and the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the Kaye Playhouse in New York, the Berlin Konzerthause, and the Opera House in Hanoi, Vietnam. As a concerto soloist, she has performed with the Jäger Meisters Chamber Orchestra, the Humboldt University Orchestra, the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, the Bellflower Orchestra, the Brentwood-Westwood Symphony Orchestra, the Hanoi Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Regional Wind Orchestra of Paris. In addition, she was invited to participate and perform at several international festivals, including Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival in Maine, USA, the Fontainebleau Summer Music Festival in France, the Mozarteum Music Academy in Salzburg, Austria, and give master classes at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York, USA.
Quynh has also distinguished herself as a prizewinner in various international and national piano, including the recent silver medal in the American Prize Hollander Award for her live performance of the Mozart Concerto in G Major K. 453 with Maestrao Zilberkant and the Jäger Meisters Chamber Orchestra at the Kaye Playhouse. In addition, her performances have been featured on radio stations throughout the United States as well as television programs such as “Grand Piano,” which was shown on cable channels in several states across the country, CUNY TV channel 75 on the program “Study With the Best,” Japanese television Fujisankei and Vietnamese national television. Her recordings can be found on the Arabesque Recordings label, on Itunes, and Amazon.
A graduate of The Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music, Quynh received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Graduate Center of City University of New York. Her dissertation titled An Analysis of Olivier Messiaen’s Last Piano Solo Work: Les Petites Esquisses d’oiseaux received the Barry Brook Dissertation award from the Graduate Center. Additionally, she is the recipient of several highly prestigious scholarships and awards, including the United States Presidential Academic Excellence Award, the American Prize, and the Fulbright Fellowship to study music with the late Yvonne Loriod Messiaen in Paris, France in 2004-2005.
Dr. Nguyen currently serves on the music faculty of the Music Department at Hunter College, City University of New York, and the International Keyboard Institute and Festival.
Reviews and Press:
“Her delightful Weill Hall recital offered renditions of Bach’s G-minor English Suite (with a witty suggestion of a tambourine in the Gavotte), Schubert’s D-major Sonata, D. 850, and vernal, lyrical accounts of Chopin’s E-major Scherzo and late E-flat Nocturne (Op. 55, No. 2). Likewise memorable was her fleet, crystalline Ravel Tombeau de Couperin at a later Merkin Hall concert.” –Harris Goldsmith, Musical America
“Your performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K.453 was splendid virtually from beginning to end. Your artistic approach to the Allegro shared your fluid technique and understanding of performance practice. I sincerely enjoyed how you constructed each phrase and how carefully you listened to and dialogued with the JägerMeister Orchestra and Maestro Zilberkant. Your enthusiasm for Mozart was evident in the Andante and the Allegretto-Presto as well. Mozart sounds like a first musical language for you. There was a clear musical narrative shared throughout the performance. Congratulations and thank you for sharing such a delightful rendering. – Micheal Benson, Judge of The American Prize
“She is often sensitive and poetic, ... she knows how to make (the music) dazzle with lively rhythm, piquant inflexions, and dashing virtuosity. Her playing of Ravel's “Tombeau de Couperin” was marvelous: she excels in everything that requires elegance, proportion, balance, taste, and wit.” − Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe
“Rarely does one hear a young artist with such a naturally flowing sense of melodic line - vivid and unforced - that permits the music to breathe uninhibited. This flexible way of playing allows poetry and emotion to expand organically. Quynh Nguyen is already a major talent of the younger generation of keyboard artists.” − International Piano Magazine
“Ms. Nguyen’s pianism and music making are graced with beauty and exuberance. She is a real artist; a wonderfully communicative performer. What a compendium of intellect, sophistication and taste!” − New York Concert Review
“She captures impressive and splendid characterization of musical creation through intensive animation and flexibility. With filigree technique, she charms everyone present with her music. . . [and] the listeners gave this musical romantic a wonderful reception. This pianist understands and has mastered the dramatic, lyrical and introvert nuances in Chopin compositions, and for this she received the biggest applause.” − Merzig-Wadern Zeitung Wadern Newspaper, Germany