Saigon DailyOn their first concert tour to Vietnam, the Hafnia Chamber Orchestra performed with nine of its members together with seven young talented musicians of the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra. Accompanying the famous flute soloist Le Thu Huong, the orchestra gave the audience three wonderful concerts, presenting a programme inspired on “East meets West”. They performed works of Bach, Mozart, Nielsen, Pärt and Tchaikovsky in Hanoi (13/12), Hue (16/12) and Ho Chi Minh City (18/12) and inspired by the success of the tour, the conductor of the Hafnia Chamber Orchestra, Simon Casali-Krzentowski, engaged in a conversation.

Congratulations to you and the orchestra for such a successful tour in Vietnam. The audience loved it! How did the project “East meets West” get started?

Le Thu Huong and I studied together at the Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 2001 till 2005. Unfortunately, during these years we didn’t find a chance to perform together, but our many common ideas about music made us good friends. When we got the support from the Danish Centre for Culture and Development the idea of making a joined tour with Danish and Vietnamese musicians was quickly realized and what could be nicer than finally perform together? Make music together.

What was your impression of the Vietnamese musicians through the rehearsals and concerts?
They are very enthusiastic and professional, so working with them was a real pleasure. We had very friendly and constructive rehearsals together, resulting in three successful concerts. Specially the first concert, in the Hanoi Opera House, was fantastic, with a completely full hall.

In Hue, classical music is somehow still new to people. Was it a “risk” to have a classical concert there?
(Smiling) Before the performance in Hue, many people warned us of the more “adventurous” conditions surrounding the concert. Mainly the bad acoustic of the hall and the audience not appreciating classical music due to a lack of knowledge and interest. But we took the risk, we wanted to try it… We posted many concert posters at the different universities and public places. We decided not to sell tickets, but to offer a free concert instead. The result was amazing, almost 400 people came! For many it was their first experience of classical music. Most of them were chewing on sweets and seeds, which was clearly audible during the soft passages in the concert. Anyway, they did respect our work and didn’t leave until the concert was finished.

What do you think and feel about Vietnamese music life?
It was surprising to see two worlds come together on the other side of the globe. From our arrival at the airport, in the taxi, hotel, etc, I only heard rock and pop music, but when I arrived to the music academies of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I heard familiar classical music coming out of every practice room. So fascinating to see how all this different music finds its way… The Vietnamese musicians who joined us were very well prepared.

What is Hafnia’s next activity in Vietnam?
The success of this tour inspires us to repeat our collaboration in the near future. We will try to come and play more often here. As part of our recent experiences, we will invite the Vietnamese musicians to Denmark, in a reversed project. When we come again to Vietnam, I would like to explore and perform works of Vietnamese composers. This time we brought European music here, next time we will be inspired by local music as well!

Thank you very much!

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