Saigon Chamber Music features and nurtures young talents

July 12, 2019 - 11:06

An exciting summer music festival for young artists and students named Saigon Chamber Music (SCM) opened with a night of romance across Europe by German musicians. The festival lasts for a week, with a series of practice sessions, talks, master classes and performances. 

By Nguyễn Thúy Bình

An exciting summer music festival for young artists and students named Saigon Chamber Music (SCM) opened with a night of romance across Europe by German musicians. The festival lasts for a week, with a series of practice sessions, talks, master classes and performances. 

A concert by the Boulanger Trio at HCM Conservatory wowed the audience.


European experts: Germany’s Boulanger Trio perform to open Saigon Chamber Music 2019 on July 7. Photos courtesy of Saigon Chamber Music

The trio, including pianist Karla Haltenwanger, violinist Birgit Erz and cellist Illona Kindt, have come to HCM City to perform and teach at SCM with the aim of inspiring young musicians.

“We have mostly chosen works by the classical masters Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert since we believe that with these works the students develop their ensemble playing in the best way,” said Kindt.

“It makes us very happy to share our love for music and our experience with the students. It’s so wonderful that this works despite our different languages and different cultural backgrounds, since music remains the same language everywhere in the world.”

Hoàng Hạnh Dung, a second-year piano student at HCM City Conservatory is among SCM attendees this year.

Dung is a member of a duo & a trio. Under the guidance of the musicians, Dung is practising Schubert's Piano in Fantasy and Beethoven's Piano Trio.

“The German musicians guide us very well,” she said. “I feel comfortable to work with them. After hard work practising we talk about different instruments. It is very interesting.

“SCM feels more like a small family not just a school. SCM is really rewarding," Dung said.


Youthful energy: Saigon Chamber Music has been held annually since 2014, drawing not only young Vietnamese talents but also others from Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and France. 

Participants of SCM are mostly string musicians and pianists and selected through a competitive video audition. They are given a repertoire to start working on their own before the coaching week.

Each musician plays in two or three different ensembles with different partners to maximise their experience.

The event lasts only five days, which are packed with rehearsals, workshops and performances.


On the keys: Pianist Karla Haltenwanger teaches her students at the event.

SCM was originally founded in 2014 by Norway's classical music development partner Transposition Programme. When it stopped in early 2016, SCM still had its own life and continues to grow and inspire young musicians in HCM City.

The inaugural SCM featured British cellist, composer and music educator Zoe Martlew, Norwegian violinist Atle Sponberg and Vietnamese-British pianist Nguyễn Bích Trà.

They all came back in 2015 to capitalise on their previous success as well as their established understanding of the students’ needs.

“This year SCM celebrates its 5th birthday. It has been a very rewarding journey for us all: from facilitators, supporters, teaching artists and the young music students,” pianist Trà said.

“The essence of making music is to listen and the essence of making chamber music is to listen to each other. SCM was the first summer music course with the sole focus to address that much needed practice to develop the skillset for young Vietnamese musicians.

“They were taught first-hand by international chamber musicians and we are so happy to see that local young chamber music groups have been formed out of our SMC and other students who went to study abroad are actively pursuing chamber repertoire,” Trà said.


Star player: Pianist Nguyễn Bích Trà performed in 2014 and 2015. She also taught in 2016 and 2017.

SCM has been an instant hit with the young musicians who came from all three music centres in Hà Nội, Huế and HCM City. They adore their faculty and have made significant progress during the week and throughout the year.

The sense of achievement for those young people is so visible every time they bid goodbye at the end of the event.

Nguyễn Thế Cường Quốc and Lại Huy Hoàng have attended SCM since the first edition. Quốc is currently studying a postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Music in London, UK. Hoàng, a second-year violoncello student, continues to learn and get chamber music performing experience at SCM. 

“SCM is very meaningful to inspire chamber music for young artists in HCM City," Hoàng said.

“One useful thing is the ability to listen to each other. It can be said that listening to each other is very rare for music students because we only focus on solo works.”

This year, Hoàng and his trio Trio L’aube including violinist Phạm Đình Minh and pianist Bùi Thanh Tân wish to develop and improve the performing skills of chamber music ensembles and learn the teamwork experience of the professional Boulanger Trio.

This year SCM is co-held by HCM Conservatory and the Goethe Institute to celebrate its 5th birthday. It has a rich programme with 11 ensembles and a small orchestra which practise diverse styles and languages from classic to romantic and modern music. 

SCM also creates activities for string beginners to play short pieces and feel inspired when playing together and creating a greater effect.

As usual, a concert by the young musicians will be held to close the event at 7pm, on July 13 at HCM City Conservatory.

With the excitement built over the week, the youthful energy radiating from inspired musicians who empty their hearts into their playing and the enthusiastic audience together will make the finale performance a memorable experience for everyone involved. VNS