Rachmaninov and Beethoven set to combine and please

The HCMC Ballet, Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) will present a program featuring Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Saigon Opera House on Sunday, May 26.

Rachmaninov and Beethoven set to combine and please
Piano soloist Nguyen Bich Tra - PHOTO: COURTESY OF HBSO

The greatest classics are hard to beat, and both the works featured here are among these supreme classical music items.

Sergei Rachmaninov completed his second piano concerto in 1901, surprisingly after a period of several years’ depression. It is in three movements, the norm for concertos.

It has been extensively used as the sound track of movies, and its themes have formed the basis of many subsequently famous songs (by popular singers such as Frank Sinatra).

Perhaps the most famous film use was in UK director David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter (the script was by Noel Coward).

The concerto is so integral to the film that on subsequent hearings the music easily evokes particular scenes. The black-and-white film itself is very much a period piece, and these days can be hard to take seriously. But its use of the Rachmaninov piano concerto assures it of a place among early UK film classics.

The concerto also features in Scott Hicks’s 1996 film Shine which is about a young Australian pianist and his struggles to achieve recognition. He is told in London that Rachmaninov’s Third is the composer’s most challenging piano concerto, but his Second his most popular.

The piano soloist in Saigon will be Nguyen Bich Tra, better known as Tra Nguyen. Nowadays resident in London, she appeared in the HBSO concert on October 19 last year playing Gershwin’s only piano concerto.


Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is one of the great composer’s five most celebrated symphonies, along with his Third, Fifth, Sixth and Ninth.

The celebrated opera composer Richard Wagner found it especially momentous. He declared it to be the “apotheosis of the dance”, in other words dance raised to a divine level. He is said to have once danced through the entire symphony while his friend Franz Liszt played the work in his own piano transcription.

The symphony is in four movements, usual for symphonies. The second movement is comparable to a funeral march (not surprisingly given that the Napoleonic Wars were raging at the time of its composition), while the last movement is particularly dance-like. Maybe it was only this last movement that Wagner danced to.

The symphony orchestra division of HBSO combines three tasks in enviable fashion - displaying the greatest orchestral masterpieces, offering new music by contemporary Vietnamese composers using the classical tradition (loosely defined), and pleasing the multitude with orchestral versions of film music and even rock-and-roll. This concert undeniably falls into the first category.

Rachmaninov (1873 – 1943) was a Russian-born composer who introduced jazz-related rhythms into classical works. Beethoven (1770 – 1827), on the other hand, was a classical composer who expanded the traditions perfected by Haydn and Mozart at the dawn of what was to become the Romantic Era.

The HBSO Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by the HBSO’s Music Director, Meritorious Artist Tran Vuong Thach.

Tickets are from VND300,000 to VND650,000, with a special concession of VND80,000 for students, on production of a valid student-card. The concert begins at 8 p.m. SGT

Bradley Winterton

Leave your comment on an article