AsiaViews, Edition: 31/VII/November2010
On October 28, 2010, the historic Hanoi Opera House by the scenic Hoan Kiem lake hosted a landmark ASEAN musical collaboration. Eighty talented musicians from the 10 ASEAN member countries, including the conductor and the concert master, gathered under the ASEAN Symphony Orchestra. It is the first orchestra performed by a group of musicians from around the Southeast Asia region. Its inaugural performance was witnessed by the VIPs of the ASEAN Summit and local dignitaries. The event was to mark both the millennium anniversary of Hanoi and ASEAN?s 17th Summit.
The invited guests were treated to an impressive performance under of regional talent, brought together by Japanese conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura. The concert opened with Johannes Brahms? Academic Festival. The dramatic overture was followed by a solo performance of violinist Anna Sowanna from Thailand with Carmen Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra by Pablo Sarasate. Nguyen Tuan Manh, solo pianist from Vietnam, took the stage afterwards to play Concerstuck for Piano and Orchestra, Op.79, by C.M.V. Weber. The magnificent concert ended with the group?s performance of Symphony No 9 in E Minor by Antonin Dvorak.
The Symphony was formed in collaboration with the Nippon foundation, the Vietnam Ministry of Sports, Transport and Tourism and supported by ASEAN to deepen the friendship and enhance the people-to-people relations. The conservatories of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh city and Hue also took part in the symphony, the first such collaboration for the conservatories.
The idea of establishing a regional orchestra was first conceived by Mr. Fukumura many years ago. ?It has been my dream for over 20 years to found an orchestra consisting of musicians only from the ASEAN countries? said Mr. Fukumura, one of the world?s best known concert maestro. He has travelled extensively across the world and played with world renown orchestras and believes that Southeast Asia can produce equally talented musicians. ?Whether it?s Europe, Latin America or Asia, it?s the same music they are playing?, he said. He said many Asian countries relied heavily on westerners, such as Malaysia which boasts a large orchestra but 90% of the musicians are westerners.
During an after-concert conversation one evening between Mr. Yoshikazu Fukumura, who is also the music director and conductor of the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Raja Retnam, an ASEAN official, and Mr. Shuichi Ohno, Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation,and Ms. Van Thi Minh Huong, Director of the HMC Conservatory two years ago in Ho Chi Minh City, the idea for an ASEAN Orchestra became a possibility.
The idea was later discussed with ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwa, who fully supported the initiative, as he had always supported regional cultural activities as a platform for people to interact and to establish a sense of community among the people of the region.
Luck was on the side of Mr. Fukumura as the Nippon Foundation was willing to support the initiative. Within weeks, the ASEAN Orchestra was established and Mr. Fukumura set out to recruit talents from the region.
Sixty of the 76 players were handpicked by Mr. Fukumura himself from the HCM Conservatory of Music, Vietnam the National Academy of Music, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Viet Nam Orchestra and Ballet. He also traveled to Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, the countries where distant screening proved difficult, to audition musicians in person and where he managed to find four talented musicians. The rest were recruited from the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, based on the recommendations of local orchestras.
During of the course of this year, the young musicians practiced hard and rehearsed to prepare to play at the 17th ASEAN Summit.
Solo Pianist Nguyen Tuan Manh, 24, recounted how he spent grueling hours to practise with the multinational musicians under very strict, demanding but very generous maestro. ?When we play on stage, there is good rapport among us. We connect with one another as a group although we speak different languages.?
In his welcome note at the concert, Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, expressed his hope that the event would build momentum for increased social and cultural exchanges.
The young Orchestra also gave a one-hour performance on October 29 at the Hanoi National Convention Center during the gala dinner hosted for ASEAN leaders attending the Summit. A few days before this inaugural performance, they also performed at the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music.
Mr. Raja said it is still premature to comment on the future program of the orchestra. ?The most important thing is to ensure the quality. We have managed to pull together a regional orchestra and our home grown young musicians can play up to international standards. That?s an achievement.? he added.
The Nippon Foundation strongly believes that given the very positive impact the orchestra will have on the regional integration process, more private sponsors will be willing to carry the torch.
The ASEAN member countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
By: Sakia Kyu
Asiaviews 03 November 2010