Dang Thai Son – The lonely pianist

Published: 27/01/2010 05:00



“A single man like me doesn’t have to suffer from any pressure in art. The piano has become my closest friend,” said the world renowned pianist in a recent interview.

Dang Thai Son has returned to Vietnam to perform in a single concert in HCM City this week.

LookAtVietnam: The year 2010 marks milestones in your career, doesn’t it?

Dang Thai Son: 2010 for music is the year the world celebrates the 200th birthday of Chopin. My life is closely connected with this Polish genius and I’m affectionately called “Man of Chopin” so this is a great year for me.

On his birthday (March 1), there will be a great performance in Poland by three winners of the Concours Chopin Award, including me.

It is very interesting that, in 2010, once again a Conours concert will be held in October. This event will see change greatly, with the jury reduced from 26 to 12 members, including prestigious performers of Chopin’s music. I’m lucky to be one of them.

In Vietnam, I’m honour of starting this special year by a solo show on January 26 at the HCM City Theatre. The show will have both popular and abstract music works. I have not played piano solo in Saigon so many people said that I favour Hanoi than HCM City.

On this occasion, I will also bring my mother to visit her hometown of HCM City. To celebrate the 1000th great anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi, I plan to perform with the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra on October 1 to open the anniversary. My schedule is full until December 2010.

VNNB: Your life revolves around performance tours. How do you balance it?

Son: I restrict meetings. When I play music, I have great sympathy with the audience. Talking is not the only way of communication. When you get into a big room with thousands of people, there are always channels of energy. Scientifically, you discharge electricity and then you need to recharge. The recharging needs quietness and loneliness.

Sometimes my close friends approach me about not seeing them when I return home, but I like quietness. There are many big events this year, so I will focus on performances. In early 2011 I will do nothing but rest for several months.

The mood of artists is often up and down. I don’t try to build a wall to hide. I let my feelings show naturally. Everything comes naturally!

You don’t want to see others while you are single. How do you deal with loneliness?

Composers are solitary, but pianists are lonelier. On the stage, other musical instruments need at least two players. For pianists, it is all alone. That’s the character of this musical instrument.

To prepare for performances, the players of other musical instruments often group together, but pianists prepare alone in a room with four walls. The piano becomes their loyal friend, which shares 100 percent with the player. The most secret things that I cannot tell a close friend, I can tell the piano.

The loneliness, in some aspects, is positive. It is important for artists to choose the works in their power. I have my choices and I only do what I like. A single man like me doesn’t have to suffer from any pressure in art. My parents also accept this.

VNNB: Your name Dang Thai Son is coincidentally the same as the compliment others give you – the mountain in Vietnamese music. How do you feel about ceaselessly trying to maintain your position?

Son: I won the Chopin Award in 1980. Thirty years is a very long road. When I studied history, I remember best the following sentence: it is difficult to make revolution to seize power, but it is more difficult to maintain power.

The Concours Chopin has a first prize winner every five years and it is easy to forget the previous winner. It is really difficult to make audiences remember me.

My job is sometimes cruel. The audiences come to the theatre to see and to listen to the best and they don’t need to know what happen behind the scenes. The performers may not be in the best mood or health. If he cannot play music as well as he usually does, he could lose his fame.

Man is not a machine so they cannot have all perfect shows. When I began performing piano, I couldn’t eat or sleep when I didn’t play piano well. Now I accept it like a natural rule. When I try my best, but the show is not good as I expect, I have to accept it. Tiredness is a part of life. Humans have not only tiredness, but also pain. So I accept everything.

VNNB: Thirty years after your Chopin Award, Nguyen Viet Trung is the second Vietnamese pianist praised by Polish experts as a music genius. What do you think about this phenomenon?

Son: I have followed Trung’s development recently. I’m afraid to use great words like “genius.” Nurturing a talent needs soul and mind. Many Asian families I know lack experience and advertise their children too early, adversely affecting the kids’ talent.

It is lucky that Trung is a good boy and studies seriously. His parents try to give him the best chances to develop. They are not in the music world, so they learn to help their son. That’s very good. Several months ago I had a chance to join in Trung’s performance in Poland and I saw his great progress. Trung is only 12. If he goes in the right way, his future will be very bright.

VNNB: You were born in a family of artists and your mother, artist Thai Thi Lien, looked after your talent. What has her influence been on your career?

Son: I’m lucky to be born in a family of music and my mother sent me to the conservatory of music. At that time, parents chose jobs for their children. If you studied in the conservatory of music, you would have become teachers anyway. Sometime I thought if I didn’t study piano, what would I do now?

When I was a boy, I grew up in a rural area. Like rural boys, I enjoyed tending buffaloes and farm work. If I didn’t study music and my mother didn’t set up the future for me, I would have chosen a job which is close to the future, for example, farming.


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