Composer Tran Manh Hung's symphonic poem Dien Bien Phu will be performed at the 16th edition of the Music Festival in the Mountains on Friday. The festival is one of the most important classical music festivals in Latin America and brings together musicians from all over Brazil and abroad.
Hung is one of a few composers specialising in symphonies awarded a prize by the Viet Nam Composers' Association. He was interviewed by Culture Vulture about the symphonic poem and his career.
Your work Dien Bien Phu will be performed on Friday at the music festival in Brazil for the first time. Could you tell us about the work and its debut in Brazil?
It is a prestigious classical music festival in Latin American countries. For the 16th edition, the festival organisers invited conductor Tran Vuong Thach, director of the HCM Ballet and Symphony Orchestra, to attend the festival. He will conduct a Brazilian orchestra on Friday.
I composed Dien Bien Phu to celebrate the 60th victory of the Dien Bien Phu battle. The HCM City Union of Literature and Arts Associations held a field trip entitled Back to Roots on this occasion. I joined the group when it travelled through the country, then composed the work and finished in October 2013.
The work was written for a medium-sized symphonic orchestra. It is a symphonic poem with one-chapter structure.
Do you know why your work was selected to be a representative for Vietnamese music to be performed at the festival in Brazil?
Conductor Thach selected the repertoire that will be performed on Friday. The conductor wants to introduce to foreign audiences a work that features Vietnamese characteristics.
The symphonic poem was composed based on Hat Dam Cuoi (Wedding Singing) of the Mong ethnic group; Danh Thuc Nguoi Yeu Day (Waking up Lover); Giai Dieu Que Huong (Homeland Melody) and Dieu Trang Sang (Bright Moon Dance) of the ethnic Black Thai and Xuoi Thuyen (Boating Down) of the White Thai. These ethnic groups are predominant in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien.
Do you have another job besides composing?
At present, I have two main jobs: composition and teaching. I think they complement each other well. Teaching gives me a chance to strengthen my music knowledge while composition helps me gain skills to supplement my teaching.
In fact, classical music has existed for hundreds of years. It is recognised in the world as being the pinnacle of sound art. Only classical music can bring deep emotions to us. I prefer classical music to any other musical genre. So classical music composers like me have never thought of giving up the genre.
Could your work teaching classical music help lure more audiences to the genre?
I have experienced music composition for 15 years at music schools. My work includes symphony composition and songwriting. Classical music is not functional to satisfy public entertainment demand.
In my opinion, the imbalanced situation in Viet Nam, which escaped from war and poverty, is normal. In the near future, I believe that many young people will have a passion for classical music.
You are regarded as one of the most important symphony composers of Viet Nam. Are you proud of this?
My work has received awards from the Viet Nam Composers' Association. It is a big reward for me. Encouragement from my colleagues is strong enough to raise my passion for composition. — VNS