Naxos World 2023
Merging two of his instruments to create a series of aural images, Parisian master of melody honors his mother’s memory with a touching recital.
In the decade which passed since his debut album, Tri Nguyen has established a quiet presence in the realm of world music by sculpting translucent figures out of crystalline notes that đàn-tranh fills the ether with. Still, plucking its strings was not enough for this musician to issue a tuneful epistle to the one whose love shaped his life: such dedication required grounding of airy sounds in classical music – and fortunately, piano played a major part in the France-based artist’s upbringing. Hence the unified duality of fourteen pieces on offer here, Tri’s first album where Vietnamese zither and European ivories are equally prominent, with either of the instruments, in turn, leading or providing support to the other.
There’s almost nothing chamber or sterile about the impressionistically understated, yet sometimes stormily expressive, gorgeousness of Nguyen’s numbers that’s neither precious nor casual – and there’s nothing exotic for that matter, even though “Rainfall” exudes a distinctive Oriental aroma. And if đàn-tranh is dropping dewy accents into the deceptively repetitive ripple of “The Wait… To The Other Side” before floating to the surface and diving to the background, it will elevate “Sigh Of Sorrow” – a serenade based on Bach’s “The Goldberg Variations” – to paradisiacal heights, aiming for surprise which the tremulous “Our Last Waltz” can’t truly serve because Ravel, whose “Piano Concerto in G” this ballad’s rooted in, used pentatonic patterns too. So while “That Bicycle Ride” channels Mozart via full-on folk-symphonic gusts of melodic wonder, and “Slipping Away” reveals ever-shifting, dynamic miracles in solemn passages, “Your Flight To Heaven” and “Innocence Lost” derive celestial charm from their exquisite interplay and emotional depth rather than sonic sequences.
And if the pastel-hued “Drunk” relocates Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” to the Far East, the melancholy seeping out of “Scent Of The River” is, despite its zither veneer, Gallic, whereas “Weeping Mango Leaves” perfectly marries the two cultures with creating simplistic mélange of Tri Nguyen’s two legacies. Here’s a trip of epic delights that can deservedly drive Tri Nguyen towards new audiences.