Concert for AO victims this weekend

The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) will present a concert at the Saigon Opera House in cooperation with the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) on August 3.

Concert for AO victims this weekend
Violinist Nguyen Huu Nguyen – PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

August 10 is Agent Orange Day.

Agent Orange was a defoliant used extensively by the U.S. during the American War (called ‘the Vietnam War’ outside Vietnam). Almost two million gallons of Agent Orange and associated chemicals were sprayed on Vietnam, plus parts of Laos and Cambodia, between 1962 and 1971 – an Olympic-sized swimming pool, for comparison, holds around 660,000 gallons of water. Some four million Vietnamese came into contact with the substance.

Its horrific health effects continue to this day. There are still some three million people in Vietnam suffering from the consequences of Agent Orange, and at least 150,000 children live with severe birth defects. An excellent German film about one afflicted family, Long Thanh will lachen (‘Long Thanh wants to laugh’), was released in 2016.

The concert’s main item will be Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano. But this will be preceded, not as previously announced by Beethoven’s fourth symphony, but by an exciting line-up of traditional Japanese drums from the Ryuko Mirai Drum Ensemble.

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was written in 1803, when Beethoven was 32, though it wasn’t performed publically for another five years. It’s in three movements, as is usual for concertos,

The slow middle movement is very short, lasting only five or six minutes, and leads into the third and final movement without a break. The flues, oboes, trumpets and timpani don’t play at all in this movement.

There has been speculation as to who, if anyone, the concerto was written for. Beethoven had several aristocratic pupils who might have taken the relatively easy piano part, but no conclusion has been reached.


The work as a whole has been described as “polite entertainment”, meaning entertainment for supposedly sophisticated, upper-class people. It is not, in other words, one of the barn-storming works nowadays associated with the name of Beethoven, nor an intellectually taxing piece comparable, say, to his late string quartets.

In Saigon, the solo violin part will be played by Nguyen Huu Nguyen, the cello by Emma Savouret, and the piano by Ho Dac Thuy Hoang.

Violinist Nguyen Huu Nguyen lives in Paris and is a member of the French National Symphony Orchestra (‘Orchestre national de France’), which he joined in 1999. He studied at the HCMC Conservatory of Music from the age of 14 and won first prize in the Young Talent Violin Contest. He later entered the Paris Conservatory and won first prize at a contest organized by the Maurice Ravel Conservatory.

Cellist Emma Savouret is also a member of the French National Symphony Orchestra, which she joined in 2002. She too studied at the Paris Conservatory.

Beethoven may have written a relatively straightforward, though showy, piano part in his Triple Concerto, but pianist Ho Dac Thuy Hoang displays her skill in videos playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K.488 and Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A, both available on YouTube.

The concert will end with the symphonic poem Than dong To quoc by the popular composer and song-writer Hoang Van (1930 to 2018).

This will be an important event, musically thrilling, dedicated to a major Vietnamese cause, and with a patriotic Vietnamese theme at the end. The conductor will be Le Phi Phi.

Tickets for the event are from VND300,000 to VND650,000, with a special price for students of VND80,000. The concert begins at 8 p.m. SGT

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