Viet Nam News
Conductor Lê Phi Phi returns to Hà Nội to conduct a concert in celebration of National Day on September 2. The conductor will lead the Việt Nam National Symphony and Orchestra (VNSO) along with choirs from the Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet (VNOB) and the Hà Nội Children Cultural House.
Born in Hà Nội, Phi graduated from the Việt Nam National Academy of Music and the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory with degrees in piano and orchestra conducting. After graduation, he became the assistant-conductor and the permanent conductor of Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000.
He has performed as a guest artist at many symphony orchestras, including the Symphonic Orchestra of Radio-Television of Serbia, the Opera-Studio of Moscow Conservatory, the Symphony Orchestra of Vidin, Bulgaria, and the Macedonian Opera and Ballet.
Phi has taken tour concerts around the world to Russia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Germany, France, Italy and many others. He often comes back to Việt Nam to conduct.
He spoke about the upcoming concert in Hà Nội and about popularising classical music among young audiences.
You will conduct the 8th Remain Forever concert, held annually to mark National Day. Why have you decided to become the permanent conductor of the concert?
Remain Forever is a connection between Vietnamese musical pieces and their authors and I. It is also a chance for me to meet my audiences.
This year the concert will gather the best performances at the last concerts. Which do you prefer: the old or the new repertoires?
This year will mark the 8th year of the concert. I think it is a milestone to review the best performances at the concerts during the last eight years. I’m always excited to begin rehearsal. I will find new things from the old ones and add them to the new concert I will create. For example, my repertoire includes symphonies which I have conducted many times. But they still keep me excited every time I perform.
You have conducted musicians performing at the concert many times. How do you think you can make the concert perfect?
We include musicians from VNSO, VNOB, and other artists. The musicians and I understand each other well. The concert organiser, online newspaper vietnamnet, is getting more professional. The only thing I want to have is theatre-level sound quality. It is very important for performing classical music. This doesn’t mean sound equipment only but also requires a professional sound technician.
Is it difficult for you, someone who is living abroad, to return home to perform at an annual concert?
I’m living abroad but Việt Nam is always in my heart. I’m trying my best to make a contribution to develop classical music in Việt Nam. It is the first destination in my annual performance schedule. My parents, my relatives and my friends are living here, where I was born and grew up. It is geographically distant but close to my heart.
Do you want other artists to succeed you in conducting the concert?
A conductor is not only a skilful musician. He also needs other abilities. A conductor should have good health, and be patient and strict. He needs to have a good grasp of psychology and training to lead an orchestra of more than 60 members.
The conductor gathers all members and leads them playing music in harmony with his feeling at the moment. Conducting the Remain Forever concert demands a profound understanding of Vietnamese music and composers as well.
It is necessary to develop successors in classical music, but the conductor of Remain Forever must be not newly-graduated conductor. A concert is a combination of conductor, singer and orchestra. It requires a veteran conductor who has experiences from many years of working.
Tickets for concerts and art shows in this country have not always sold out. Do you think audiences play an important role in art developing?
Support of the audience is my greatest award. In developed countries, the payment for a conductor is very high. In Việt Nam ticket prices can not be high because living standards are still low.
However, in recent years I see there is a change. The HCM City Ballet and Symphony has been performing three times a month and tickets were almost sold out. It is the same with shows by VNSO and VNOB. It is a good sign.
About 10 to 15 years ago, classical music audiences were almost all middle-aged and old people. Now, I see many young audiences enjoying classical music.
Music lovers in Hà Nội and HCM City are different. In Hà Nội, the classical music audience is much larger than in HCM City. They love and have knowledge of classical music. Concert-goers in HCM City are younger and they are not necesarily knowledgable of classical music. They simply like to go to the theatre and they are eager for new things.
Different living styles affect the way people enjoy music. I think that managers and theatre directors are making great efforts to create a good environment and a audience for classical music development.
What’s the purpose in your career?
My target is to perform all over the world and return to Việt Nam to perform with art troupes. And I wish to teach at conservatories and music colleges. — VNS