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Tri Nguyen: Duos – Alone



Tri Nguyen
Vietnamese Artist Tri Nguyen

Long before even listening to the eloquent music on this recording, Duos – Alone by Tri Nguyen, when you are reading the heartfelt – and historically informative – liner notes in fact, you will realise that you are about to be drawn into – and entranced – by a magnificent duality. For what you will soon hear is not just a duo album, but one that is a conversation between two instruments from opposite ends of the world play by one incredible musician who also happens to be a technically uncommon and evocative virtuoso on both instruments: the Vietnamese 16-string instrument dàn tranh and the celebrated piano of the Western world. Naturally you would never know what to expect – or think that you know what to expect. You would certainly be wrong on the latter account. For this duo performance defies logic [even if a feat of double-tracking engineering is employed] for what you hear is a duo of cultures colliding in the highly refined realm of music.

But there is more. From end to end this repertoire is an epic love story between the Tri Nguyen and his parents – primarily his mother who was the driving force not only behind his early entry into the realm of music but who, being a gentle and constant touchstone in the artist’s life as it developed, first in Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City], then in the conservatoires and private salons of Paris before returning [in tragic circumstances, no less] to Vietnam again, to [among other things] to say a final goodbye to his mother. And so, while Tri Nguyen’s artistry has been informed by two disparate cultures, his emotions have been inextricably implanted into his musical DNA.

Tri Nguyen: Duos – Alone
Tri Nguyen: Duos – Alone

Most remarkable of all is the manner in which you are seduced both by the story of Tri Nguyen and his evocative musical letter to his mother and by the seamless ingenuity with which the artist navigates between musical and cultural topographies. Just as significantly Tri Nguyen’s Bach [for instance] is not the same as, say, JS Bach of Glenn Gould. However, his Bach. Rather it is Bach nestling in the warmth and sunshine – or huddling the moist monsoon – of Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City] of today – which is how you fall prey to the charms of Sigh of Sorrow [based on the Aria from Bach’s Golberg Variations]. This cultural relocation is especially poignant on Drunk [which is based on the Adagio movement of the Autumn section of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons], which is born of rusty paddies shrouded in moist misty atmospheres evoked in gently swaying bending of left-hand notes on the strings of the dàn tranh and the fluttering trills we experience in the expert fingerwork of the artist’s right hand. This uncommon touch is also featured in the articulation of That Bicycle Ride [which features musical patterns from Mozart’s Fantasias and Sonatas] To my mind, though the best melding of artistic fusion is expressed when Tri Nguyen masterfully uses his fingers that engages both piano keys and dàn tranh strings as if they were brushes with which he daubs the musical canvas that end up becoming Our Last Waltz [featuring passages from Ravel’s Piano Concertos].

Those works are just four parts in an album comprising 14 works that make up this remarkable final love letter to both the artist’s mother as well as a tribute to the cultures which Tri Nguyen straddles – namely the French and Vietnamese ones into which he was born – the conservatoires and salons in which his artistic vision was born and developed to fruition. Best of all the intense evocative and personal drama of the works – the contrasts of mood and tempo, articulation and instrumental language come together exquisitely over the 14 works that comprise the epic conversation between the artist and the spirit of his mother which hovers over all the works from the evocative and delectable opening – Weeping Mango Leaves – to the bittersweet dénouement of the whole work – Your Flight to Heaven. Through it all, as Tri Nguyen’s performance comes from a place so deep within his heart, his peers and listeners will not only be carried away with the technical prowess of his artistry but will also be awed by the eloquence of this recording.

Deo gratis…

YouTube Playlist – Tri Nguyen: Duos – Alone

Music – 1: Weeping Mango Leaves; 2: Rainfall; 3: Scent of the River; 4: Between Walls; 5: Drunk [based on Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Autumn – Adagio violin concerto] ; 6: Faded Rose; 7: Innocence Lost; 8: Slipping Away; 9: Sigh of Sorrow [based on JS Bach’s Aria from The Goldberg Variations]; 10: That Bicycle Ride [featuring patterns from WA Mozart’s Fantasias and Sonatas]; 11: The Wait… To The Other Side; 12: Our Last Walts [featuring passages from Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G]; 13: To The Moon and Back; 14: Your Flight to Heaven.

Musician – Tri Nguyen: dàn tranh and piano.

Released – 2023
Label – NAXOS World [NXW 76167-2]  
Runtime – 50:51

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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