Quynh Nguyen Will Perform the American Premiere of Paul Chihara's Concerto - Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra

The performance is on January 28 at 4pm at Benaroya Hall.

By: Jan. 26, 2024
Quynh Nguyen Will Perform the American Premiere of Paul Chihara's Concerto - Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra

Award-winning Vietnamese American pianist Quynh Nguyen’s (pron. Quin Nwen) will perform the US premiere of Paul Chihara’s Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra on January 28 at 4pm at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony.  The Celebrate Asia program, under the baton of Sunny Xia will also include Chuseok Overture for Orchestra by August Baik, Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, No. 3, Op. 72b and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op 46. Tickets are $29-$105 and available by clicking here

Nguyen’s newest recording, Paul Chihara Complete Piano Works is now available on the Naxos American Classics label. The album features four works for piano, including  Chihara’s Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (2019-21), recorded with the London Symphony, Bagatelles (Twice Seven Haiku for Piano) (2010, rev. 2011), Four Reveries on Beethoven for piano (2021 version)  and  Ami for piano four hands (2008) performed by Nguyen with guest artist Rieko Aizawa.

Says Nguyen: “I am delighted and honored to record the complete piano works of Paul Chihara. This recording is the culmination of a three-year collaboration with the composer to interpret the richly multifaceted styles present in his compositions, especially the Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra which he wrote for me. The piece is virtuosic and intensely melodic with French and Eastern harmonies and jazz-tinged sections and phrases reminiscent of Russian classical works. These elements are juxtaposed within the story, reflecting my personal journey of studying music in Vietnam, Russia, France, Germany, and the United States and how their diverse cultures have shaped my life.”  

Gramophone Magazine praises the album noting that “Nguyen’s touch – in every sense – is pitch perfect. Naxos’s clear yet intimate sound completes a terrific release, one that has grown on me with each playing.” All Music  calls Nguyen’s playing “ingenious and richly evocative and beautifully and quietly played…this is a wonderful release”, Pizzicato calls the recording “brilliant” and American Record Guide proclaims it “superb.”

Nguyen performed the world premiere of Chihara's Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra in October 2022 with the Vietnamese National Symphony at the Hanoi Opera House. The concert commemorated the normalization of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations. 

Concerto-Fantasy is in four movements, played without pause. The first movement begins with an orchestral statement of the concerto’s principal melody (played by a solo violin), an idėe fixe, haunts the entire composition. The piano enters immediately after this brief orchestral statement with the first movement’s theme, semplice and dolce, introduced by the soloist. The music becomes more animated, and leads directly to the second movement, which is very much in an American jazz idiom, both playful and innocent. This idyllic mood is interrupted by the abrupt entrance of the third movement, with snare drums and distant trumpets. War has come to Hanoi, and the gorgeous traditional and natural world is being destroyed by chaos and violence. The fourth movement begins as a grateful hymn of praise and thanksgiving, and the lyrical materials from the first three movements are reprised. There is a brief and threatening nightmare moment (as if the dreadful memories of battles past still echo in the subconscious). But the moment is fleeting, and the concerto ends with the innocence of the opening movement, in a spirit of reconciliation and hope.

This is Nguyen’s second recording released in 2023 following her highly acclaimed album,  The Flower of France, Germaine Tailleferre, Works for Piano [MA-1306],  on the Music & Arts label. The Flower of France features works, curated by Nguyen, originally for solo piano, as well as transcriptions and excerpts from Tailleferre’s ballets and film scores representing some of  the composer’s best and most significant work, including a number of tracks rarely played or recorded.  Fanfare gave it 5 stars praising the recording as “alluring music by a wonderful composer performed by a wonderful artist."  Pizzacato says Nguyen “plays with a brilliant lightness and a pictorial refinement. One listens to this program with real pleasure.”

Named one of the “19 Young Stars of Tomorrow” by Musical America, Quynh Nguyen has performed extensively throughout the United States, Asia and Europe including Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France, in notable concert venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Freer Gallery, the Berlin Konzerthause and the Opera House in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Boston Globe praised her as “a musical and expressive player” who is “sensitive and poetic, and excels in everything that requires elegance, proportion, balance, taste and wit.” For her Carnegie Recital Hall debut, the critic Harris Goldsmith called Nguyen's pianism and music-making “graced with beauty and exuberance” hailing her “a real artist; a wonderfully communicative performer.”

Nguyen’s recent highlights include a performance this past April at the Fulbright Prize ceremony in Washington DC honoring Dr. Fauci, which also featured a performance by Renee Fleming.

Dr. Nguyen is a graduate of The Juilliard School, Mannes College of Music, and the Graduate Center of CUNY. She is the recipient of several highly prestigious scholarships and awards, including the United States Presidential Academic Fitness Award, the American Prize and a Fulbright Fellowship.

Visit www.quynpiano.com for more information.