The Tale of Kieu featured in new suite

(VOVWORLD) - Music Professor Dang Ngoc Long has a long association with Vietnamese music. He is the person who popularized Vietnamese music including Nghe Tinh and Quan Ho folk songs in Europe. 

As art director of the International Guitar Competition & Festival Berlin, Dang Ngoc Long has brought new arrangements of Vietnamese music to world- renowned music competitions. Recently, the Professor has written music for The Tale of Kieu, a masterpiece by the 18th century Vietnamese poet Nguyen Du to promote Vietnamese music to the world.

The Tale of Kieu featured in new suite  - ảnh 1Music Professor Dang Ngoc Long (Photo: 

 “1 year ago, I received a phone call from a friend in Berlin, who said he had organized an event to recite the Tale of Kieu to Germans and Vietnamese in Berlin. He asked me to add a classical guitar accompaniment. I chose a piece to suit the situation, then thought of writing some music for the Tale of Kieu. Then I wrote a Kieu suite”

The Tale of Kiều is an epic poem in Vietnamese written by Nguyen Du (1766–1820) and widely regarded as the most important work of Vietnamese literature. In 3,254 verses, written in lục bát ("six–eight") meter, the poem recounts the life, trials, and tribulations of Thuy Kieu, a beautiful and talented young woman, who had to sacrifice herself to save her family. Nguyen Du made use of the plot of a seventeenth-century Chinese novel, Jin Yun Qiao, known in the Vietnamese pronunciation of Chinese characters as Kim Van Kieu. Nguyen Du chose this story to convey the social and political upheavals at the end of the 18th century in Vietnam.

The Tale of Kieu featured in new suite  - ảnh 2(Photo: VOV) 

The Tale of Kieu was first translated into German by journalists Irene and Franz Faber, who were presented with the Tale of Kieu by President Ho Chi Minh during a visit to Vietnam in 1955. The couple spent nearly 20 years translating the work into German. The Vietnamese community in Germany have done a lot to promote this work in Germany. The recitation event was part of such activities: “My Kieu suite has 7 movements, each with its own theme. The first movement is the introduction of the Tale of Kieu. It’s difficult to use music to tell the Tale of Kieu, but I tried to use guitar techniques like fingering and vibrato to convey the action and emotion”

For each movement, which matches one period of time in Kieu’s life, Dang Ngoc Long uses melodies and rhythms to reflect the development of the Tale: “The second movement depicts Kieu’s childhood. Nguyen Du’s poem describes Kieu’s playing of music using the image of a crane and the sound of a stream. So I used a smooth melody for this movement”.

Professor Long says every piece he has written combines Vietnamese folk music and modern European music. The suite of Kieu is also based on an arrangement of European music: “The third movement, “Storm”, depicts tragedy befalling Kieu’s family. I used modern European music with conflicting sections to reflect the terrible things happening to Kieu’s family. To save her family, Kieu sells herself by selling herself into marriage with a middle-aged man. In this movement, the music is low and sad. When Kieu is saved by Tu Hai, the music becomes more relaxed and upbeat. The final movement is more open, using a tremolo technique to create a receding sound”.

Dang Ngoc Long graduated from the Hanoi Conservatory of Music in 1979. He went to Germany in 1984 to pursue graduate and post-graduate studies at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler-Berlin. After graduating there, he was invited to lecture at the academy, where he began making great contributions to bringing Vietnamese folk music to a world-wide audience.

During his time in Germany, Long successfully reworked several famous Vietnamese folk songs in modern European music styles.  Hearing Long’s performances of Vietnamese songs like “Central highland mountains and forests” and “Floating water-fern and wandering clouds”, many overseas Vietnamese feel transported back to their homeland despite being tens of thousands of miles away.

Writer Nguyen Van Tho talked to us about Dang Ngoc Long’s musical work: “The Kieu suite written by Dang Ngoc Long reflects the emotions and thoughts of Vietnamese people. His music has typical characteristics of Vietnamese music. During his time teaching at universities in Eastern Europe and Russia, Long also became familiar with modern European music. Long’s Kieu suite is highly regarded by many musicologists in Europe. It is considered a great contribution by overseas Vietnamese in Germany. He has made an important contribution to promoting Vietnamese culture and music to the world”.

Long was the first foreigner elected Headmaster of the Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Music School and Chairman of the Art Council and the only foreigner on the jury of the International Guitar Festival in Berlin.

Long plans to bring his Kieu suite to the International Guitar Festival 2018 in Berlin.