Vietnamese, a member of the Austro-Asiatic family of languages, can be described morphologically as a tonally-inflected tongue with a strong tendency toward monosyllabism. While beautiful in themselves, those particularities do create insurmountable problems in musical composition: they transform every pre-composed melody into a prosodical labyrinth, defeating most lyricists’ resources. Composers in Vietnam therefore almost always write themselves the words to fit their own music. In all the divergent practitioners of these challenging complexities, Trịnh Công Sơn unquestionably stands as the last word (no pun intended). His subtle melodies are more than tunes: they carry the nucleus of a minimalistic verse-form, the vehicle for Công-Sơn’s poetic utterances. Those are sheer perfection: they rank among the best ever penned in his native language. We turn to him in the last four tracks of our CD.
In presenting this small selection of Vietnamese music, we have chiefly opted for the most transcriptible material at hand: Westernized vocal compositions written especially for the native audience, newly recreated as concert solos for the piano, in a composite style which aimed to combine two aspects of nineteenth-century western music, i.e. post-classical performance practice with late romantic harmonic language.