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Golden Century concert honours a centurion

Update: November, 16/2017 - 09:00
Mother of all doyens: Madame Thái thị Liên rehearses at her home for the next week’s concert. — VNS Photo Thanh Bình
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — A special concert dedicated to pianist and pedagogue Thái Thị Liên, sole survivor among the seven founders of the Việt Nam National Academy of Music (VNAM) will be held on November 23.

The Golden Century Concert will feature performances by Madame Liên and several generations of her students including world famous pianist Đặng Thái Sơn.

Madame Liên turned 99 on August 4.

The concert is a tribute to Madame Liên, Dr Lê Anh Tuấn, VNAM Director said at press conference held on Tuesday.

"Madame  Liên is not just one of the conservatory’s founders, she is also the teacher of many piano teachers and pianists. The concert will also be a milestone of the VNAM’s development."

Madame Liên was the only woman among the seven musicians to set up Việt Nam’s first music school in 1956. She was also dean of the Piano Deparment until she retired in 1977. During 20 years of service, most of it at a time of war, Madame Liên taught piano, wrote textbooks and curriculums and her work was to train the first Vietnamese pianists.

Many of her students have become established pianists like Nguyễn Hữu Tuấn, Hoàng My, Phương Chi and her son Đặng Thái Sơn. Sơn became the first Asian to win first prize at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1980.

Born to an upper class family in Sài Gòn, Madame Liên began to play piano at 4 and studied with French pianist Armande Caron when she was 11. Caron’s teacher was Isidore Phillip who won the first piano prize at Paris Conservatoire in 1883. Phillip’s teacher was Georges Mathias — a student of Chopin.

An excellent student at 16, Madame Liên made her public debut at the Sài Gòn City Hall.  She studied with professor Ema Dolezalova at the Prague Conservatoire and performed masterpieces by D. Scarlatti, Bach, Beethoven and B. Smetana for her graduation.

She then followed her husband home to Việt Nam, to the revolutionary base in Việt Bắc and worked with the Central Art Troupe. After the historic Điện Biên Phủ victory in 1954, she joined a troupe that went to Shanghai to record music pieces for airing on national radio for the handing over of Hà Nội by the defeated French regime the same year.

Madame Liên’s career, which has spanned two centuries, has been marked by numerous piano concerts, several of which are national milestones. She was the first Vietnamese musician to perform piano recitals in Hà Nội in the late 1950s and to play it in concerts with Russian musicians.

First cut: Folk Songs from Vietnam features singer Minh Đỗ singing and Madame Liên playing Variations on the folk tunes by Thái thị Lang, her elder sister.

Her album Folk Songs from Việt Nam, released by the Supraphon label in the former Czechoslovakia  with Vietnamese singer Minh Đỗ was the first vinyl record cut in Việt Nam.

It has been nearly 50 years since Madame Liên’s "farewell concert."

She will make an amazing comeback at the Golden Century Concert at VNAM’s Great Hall, playing No4 and No2 of Mazurkas by Chopin. The composer’s pieces have been selected from her repertoire of favourites. The performance will mark a nostalgic return to her prime years in Sài Gòn, where she first encountered Chopin’s music.

"My mother has played the pieces many times and she chooses them because of their contrasting styles," said Trần Thanh Bình, Madame Liên’s elder son, who spoke at the press conference.

"Despite her old age she decided by herself the pieces she wanted to play at the concert. Our family helped her make the final choice."

Playlist: The pieces played in Viet Nam’s first ever vinyl record.

Her performances will open the concert, which has two parts. The first part includes performances by her students, Professor and People’s Artist Trần Thu Hà, Meritorious Artist Trần Tuyết Minh, Emeritus Teacher Hoàng Kim Dung and pianist Đan Thu Nga.

The second part will feature solo performances by pianist Sơn, a present from the maestro to his mother.

Concert goers will also have a chance to see the trailer of an unfinished documentary, The Cannon and The Flower, by Emmy-winning Story4 Studio.

"The Cannon and The Flower includes some scenes from Vietnamese documentary We Study Piano by Thanh An. The filmmakers want to record the upcoming concert as the final scenes of the documentary," Bình said.

On this special occasion, VNAM will launch two books: Piano Curriculum by Madame Liên and Memories of A Teacher by Madame Liên’s students from different generations. — VNS

 

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