King of Vietnam sonatas reminisces

Published: 23/11/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge - Hanoi celebrates its 54th anniversary of its liberation from French occupation on October 10th. Thanh Nga finds an eye-witness of the big day, still up and running at 84 years young.

Musician Nguyen Van Quy plays his sonata No 9 at his home.

VietNamNet Bridge - Hanoi celebrates its 54th anniversary of its liberation from French occupation on October 10th. Thanh Nga finds an eye-witness of the big day, still up and running at 84 years young.

On the chilly autumn morning of October 10, 1954, the roads were overflowing with thousands of citizens carrying flags and flowers to welcome the victorious soldiers who came to take back the city. Among the masses was a man with a guitar conducting a choir of more than 200 people to help celebrate. This man was the famous musician Nguyen Van Quy, also known as the “King of Vietnam’s Sonatas”.

Quy, who was born in 1925, seems younger than he is. He still has a clear voice, good hearing and a wonderful memory. Receiving us with a warm smile, Quy told us what happened on that day, now known as Capital Liberation Day, as if it was only yesterday.

Quy gave us a discoloured paper written on by Le Van Thanh, standing member of Ha Noi’s National Salvation Group. Thanh wrote “Do Quyen (Quy’s alias) will lead a choir organised by Ha Noi’s National Salvation Group to Hoan Kiem Lake and welcome the army who will come to liberate the capital.”

To complete his task, Quy had to prepare for months, writing songs, printing them and popularising them.

He organised groups of students to meet at a house on Hang Bong Street and his house on Nguyen Quang Bich Street to singing practice.

Only about 100 people participated in the training, but that morning in 1954 over 200 people showed up to participate.

At 7.30am on October 10, Quy led the group, organised into four lines with a big national flag in front, on a march from his house to Hoan Kiem Lake.

The choir sang Quy’s songs including Ha Noi Giai Phong (Liberation Ha Noi), and Hoan Ho Quan Doi Giai Phong Thu Do (Applauding Soldiers Who Liberate the Capital) with unending joy.

“We felt very enthusiastic. That was a very huge festival in our life. Even two hours after the army had passed us, we still kept singing.

“After that we stopped singing the whole song, we would only sing two sentences including Ha Noi oi vui len Ha Noi oi (Ha Noi, cheer up please, Ha Noi), Hoan Ho Cac Anh Ve Day Giai Phong Thu Do (Congratulation Soldiers on Liberating the Capital)”, said Quy.

And now, many old Hanoians often say hello to Quy with the sentence: “Hello Quy, Ha Noi, cheer up please, Ha Noi” when they meet him.

Nearly half a century has passed and Quy has not forgotten that historical moment.

Passion for music

Quy inherited his passion for music early on from his father, a monochordist. He often played piano in the church near his house. The music he played and listened to in his youth inspired him to write many popular songs.

At the age of 20, he was both a soldier and a musician. Then he went on to become a music teacher at the Teachers’ Training College.

His songs were the favourites of many generations of Hanoians. Children loved his song Bau Troi Xanh Xanh (Blue Sky). Young people were enchanted with Da Khuc (Serenade). Teachers especially loved the song Yeu Nguoi Bao Nhieu, Yeu Nghe Bay Nhieu (The More I love People, the More I Love My Job).

Although his songs were popular with the mainstream, Quy chose a different musical path and started composing sonatas for violin and piano. Quy ended up composing nine sonatas. The first one, finished in 1963, was a three movement piece including Anh Sang (Light), Tinh Yeu (Love) and Hanh Phuc (Happiness). The most recent one was finished two years ago.

The sonata is a very difficult form of music that few people can play or compose in Viet Nam. This is why Quy is called “Quy Sonata,” or the “King of Viet Nam’s Sonatas.”

Quy said, “I want to compose sonatas, because I want to penetrate further into people’s innermost feelings, as well as their life.”

“I often take between three and six months to finish a work, and I start composing again about one or two years later to forget the old one.”

Musicians, researchers and audiences are hard pressed to find similarities in Quy’s works to any others, so he is highly appreciated because of his originality.

The talented Ludwig van Beethoven composed 9 sonatas for violin and piano, and so has Quy.

When asked how he could accomplish so much he said, “The most important thing in our life is that we have good intentions. When we have this, there will be a pureness in our soul to help us own our intelligence and make it work for us, as well as to contribute to humanity.”

In France and Germany Quy’s music is revered, but in Viet Nam his sonatas are only popular with a few lovers of classical music.

In a recent Vietnamese television show about Quy, musician Nguyen Thuî Kha said, “Listeners will have a bountiful imagination when they listen to Quy’s works. His Sonata No 4 and No 5 were performed very successfully by artists at home and abroad. Quyfame rises further.”

Ngo Van Thanh, director of the Ha Noi National Conservatory of Music said that Quy knew music intimately, and that he cleverly combined Vietnamese musical language with European musical language.

“I attended a concert of Quy’s music performed by Isabelle Durin, a young talented French violinist. I saw that he applied sonata material skilfully into Viet Nam’s musical life. Our music styles are very abundant, classical music is very necessary,” said Do Hong Quan, chairman of Viet Nam Musicians Association.

Quy has been invited to Paris to perform his work three times. There, he also joined the Society of Authors, Composers and Editors of Music in January 1994, which gave him a copyright for his music in Europe. He joined on the condition that Vietnamese would not have to pay for listening to his works.

Quy is worried about young people’s taste in music today. “I wish that the music enjoyment level of Vietnamese, especially young people would continuously raise up according to the trend of Thien and My (Beneficence and Beauty),” he said.

For Quy, music is not noise, it is full of different sounds and tones that requires reverence in listening and knowledge.

Quy has his love for Ha Noi and his music. He continues to live an unobtrusive life with his sonatas, which he sees as the gifts he has for the world.

(Source: VNS)

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