KVT can’t help but heap praise on Honna and the VNSO
On Saturday night Ong Honna, resident conductor of the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra did himself – and the 90-plus musicians on stage at the Opera House – very proud.
Mahler’s 7th Symphony was enormously successful!
The 7th is often considered to be the hardest of Mahler’s symphonies to get right and a host of world famous conductors shy away from ever having to stand on the podium with the score spread in front of them. A very few, like Bernstein and Rattle, tackle it with great gusto. And it was with this gusto that Ong Honna grabbed hold of a much enlarged VNSO, pushed them to the limits, and with the assistance of eight international players in various sections of the orchestra, gave us a night to knock your socks off in listening pleasure.
The tone for the first movement is set by the rarely used tenor horn that sings the symphony’s first melody. With the strings and woodwinds playing low and soft you got an intimation that something special was going to hum and finally soar under the painted dome at Nha Hat Lon…probably enough to make the chandelier tinkle its crystal bits.
The seventh was composed when Mahler was, supposedly, at his most relaxed….some say in bucolic mood. Thus, they say, it resonates with Mahler’s love of the Austrian countryside in those happy summer times of his life (1904 to 1907). Due to his relaxed mood, they suggest, he became very inventive with his music and it’s suggested that with the 7th Mahler is saying a fond farewell to the lush and romantic Viennese style of the day by pushing it to its limits and opening a door so that the new composers – who were nipping at his heels – would find inspiration for the more raucous and ear challenging music that would come along as the twentieth century progressed. Schoenberg, a composer who led the charge into the ‘new music’ sort of says that the 7th allowed composers and musicians to stand on the edge of a vast musical chasm and challenged them to find a musically notated way across it.
The best advice I ever read about listening to the 7th is just to sit back and let it brush over you as you choose the colors and textures you like. It’s time to be a hippo and wallow in the river of gorgeousness that flows through it…with cowbells, mandolins adding to the spectacle. After being totally seduced by its two nocturnes and all of those lovely solos and small group bits, you are pushed with great glee into the finale that is full of Mahler type passion and boisterousness that lets it all hang out!
Bravo to the players of the VNSO and BRAVO a thousand times more to Ong Honna who allowed it all to happen.
My admiration is boundless.
For those who find Mahler too challenging, this was the night you should have been at the Opera House.
|Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.|