Cash crunch hits classical music
by Hoang Nguyen
Poorly paid: Musician Hai Phuong performs with the Sai Gon Philharmnonic Orchestra at a concert held last week in HCM City to welcome the 5th Southeast Asian Directors of Music Congress. —Photo www.tuoitre.com.vn
HA NOI (VNS)— As artist Hai Phuong plucked the strings of the dan tranh (16-chord zither) for the last notes of Que Toi Giai Phong (My Homeland is Liberated), applause filled the HCM City Conservatory of Music’s performance hall.
The audience consisted of 35 regional conservatory directors.
Through such concerts, Vietnamese artists are able to demonstrate the strength of Vietnamese classical music to high-profile personnel in the music industry, according to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Years ago, when renowned Japanese conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura came to Viet Nam to set up the ASEAN symphony orchestra, he recruited mostly Vietnamese faces (up to 80) for the philharmonic because of their regional and international level of professionalism.
That was also the reason he later renamed the HCM City Conservatory Music Symphony Orchestra to the Sai Gon Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chamber music lovers saw that this pride was justified at the ASEAN orchestra’s first performance in October 2010.
In recent years, Viet Nam’s classical music industry has been lit up by talented artists like Dang Thai Son and Bui Cong Duy, who come home every year to take part in the Autumn Melody concert. Since 2005, Autumn Melody has been a place for both Vietnamese and foreign musicians to exchange the latest music news.
However, financial difficulties have made the country lose some of its most talented artists.
Musicians are increasingly choosing to live and work in the foreign countries where they studied. Modest financial conditions prevent Viet Nam from organising major classical music concerts in the country and offering talented artists occasions to develop their ability.
Not many people know that the ASEAN Orchestra’s major concerts held in Ha Noi and HCM City were financed by the Japanese government. Japanese conductor Fukumura even had to use his private budget to organise receptions for artists after concerts.
The Sai Gon Philharmonic Orchestra is now under the direction of Singaporean conductor Adrian Tan Chee Kang. The reason for his position at the orchestra is his talent, which was tested through his work in Australia, Singapore and now Viet Nam. But even more importantly, he can find sponsors for the orchestra’s performances.
“Authorities from Viet Nam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the People’s Committee of HCM City have paid attention over the last few years to training classical musicians. However, we still have many things to do in order to keep the talented artists with us and develop their talent,” says Van Thi Mai Huong, director of the HCM Conservatory of Music.
“Over the last few years, the classical music industry of neighbouring countries has progressed rapidly. At this speed, they will soon catch up with us and it will be a real challenge for us.”
She also added that some talented artists in Viet Nam had to do extra jobs to earn a living. — VNS