‘I want to share experiences with Vietnamese musicians’: Danish conductor

The Danish conductor Frans Rasmussen, who has performed six times in Vietnam since 2002, will once again regale city residents with a classical concert tonight at the Opera House.

SGGP caught up with Mr. Rasmussen to discuss on his experiences in Vietnam.

Frans Ramussen practicing with the HBSO Orchestra (Photo: SGGP)

With the experience of working 14 years with various orchestras worldwide, what do you think about our HCMC Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO) orchestra?
Well, a few years ago, the working attitude of Vietnamese musicians was still so bad.
During practice, a few of them missed the rhythms, made wrong notes or even kept talking to each other. Most of them did not keep discipline in the theatre and used to be late for work. I could understand that since in Vietnam singers could barely cover their living costs from their orchestra salary, they probably needed to find some extra income. 
How about now?
Every time I come back to Vietnam, I recognize that the Vietnamese musicians are growing up to be more and more mature. And the most important thing, they become more active in their work. They are so humorous, friendly, know how to listen and learn from each other. And I like that.
There is still a little bit of difference between the work of a musician in Vietnam and another one in Denmark. In Vietnam, the musicians only practice three hours a day, as they receive their music sheets right after sitting in their place in the practice room and start to practice only when all members of the orchestra come to the room.
However, in Denmark, the situation is different. Danish musicians have to practice five hours a day, they receive music sheets three weeks prior to the practice day and form small groups to practice first before gathering as a whole orchestra.
What are your recommendations for HBSO to improve their performances?
In my opinion, HBSO needs to have another soundproofed practice room and it’s necessary for acoustic instruments.
The present practice room cannot ‘destroy’ all the background noise from bikes’ engines and the steps of people outside and air-conditioners inside. These trouble-makers kept the singers from barely focusing on their work and inspiration.
Moreover, I highly recommend HBSO to replace the chairs for the singers. The chairs need to have a long and high back since the performers will have to put their backs to the back of chair for long periods. If the back of the chair is not long enough, the performers will soon feel tired and loose their passion for the music.
Have you ever tried to listen to Vietnamese opera? If yes, do you think there is any possibility to promote this kind of music to the world?
I really enjoy your music. It teaches us more about a foreign country’s culture. I also like some works which use folk music materials.
I believe that your music will have its chance to go abroad. But, in my experience, if you want to promote opera music to the masses, you need to have a special way. That means you need to combine the music with a story. My recent performance at a university is an example. Before the performance, I told the students a story about a prince and the princess. Later, I asked them to close their eyes and let the music take their imagination and fly with the story. That really worked. The students mostly enjoyed our music and wanted us to play it again.
What is your expectation for the HBSO Orchestra?

I want to use my experience to make a change to your orchestra. I will ask your orchestra to work harder, be more professional and, the most important thing, I will communicate my experiences to Vietnamese performers to let them learn more passionately about opera.
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By Xuan Nghia – Translated by Truong Son

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