‘Music is as precious as air and water,’ says conductor

By Phat Dat   March 5, 2019 | 08:00 pm GMT+7

The Sun Symphony Orchestra seeks to promote Vietnamese talent, invite international talents and make scholarly music popular.

Olivier Ochanine, Sun Symphony Orchestra (SSO) music director, tells VnExpress that the orchestra seeks to become an integral part of the community.

The SSO’s current season has proven to be a success. What are your future plans?

Not only do we aspire to be one of Asia's premier orchestras, we also look to play an important role in developing the next generation of Vietnamese musicians and audiences. Through hard work and an unwavering commitment to excellence we believe that we can achieve all our goals.

The Sun Symphony Orchestra was created to bring a new standard of music making to Vietnam. Through a rigorous international audition process, the SSO has recruited some of the finest musicians from around the world as well as the best Vietnamese talents.

We are still young. We were established in 2017 under the sponsorship of the Sun Group, which, as you know, is a leading Vietnamese company in many areas like leisure, entertainment, recreation, etc.

Olivier Ochanine won the 2015 Antal Doráti International Conducting Competition, and has conducted numerous orchestras across the world. He was recently music director of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Olivier Ochanine won the 2015 Antal Doráti International Conducting Competition, and has conducted numerous orchestras across the world. He was recently music director of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

People say listening to classical music is like reading Shakespeare because it is hard to understand. Are such audience considerations included in your planning? Can you tell us something about the SSO's next season?

Audience building is something that the SSO has thought very carefully about. One must be very aware of their public whose support is the lifeblood of our existence. Understanding Vietnamese cultural tastes and traditions is paramount to success. Our annual performance plan is based on what we believe the cultural community can sustain. We try to be all-inclusive in our programming, though special attention is paid to concerts for specific audiences. I don’t want to give away any surprises. You will have to wait until we officially announce our 2019-20 Concert Season.

Many orchestras around the world are reportedly not profitable. Is it possible for the SSO to make profit in the Vietnamese market?

I would disagree with you that orchestras do not generate profit. I think that is a bit shortsighted. The benefits from having a bonafide, international-standard orchestra in a major city is substantial. This has been well documented. I think success should not only be measured in dollars and cents. There is a spiritual currency that should not be overlooked. Music is something that should be treated like a natural resource. It is as precious as air and water. You just can’t live without it. 

Having resided in Vietnam for some time now, I know that the spiritual side of this country is very strong. The Vietnamese understand that materialistic wealth is ephemeral. For this reason, I believe that the future of the SSO looks very bright.

Established in 2017, the Sun Symphony Orchestra functions under the umbrella of the Sun Group, based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Established in 2017, the Sun Symphony Orchestra functions under the umbrella of the Sun Group, based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Musicians of the Sun Symphony Orchestra have gone through a very methodical and detailed audition process. Members have already worked for some of the major orchestras in the world and most are educated to the graduate level at some of the world's most competitive musical institutions. 

You mentioned earlier that the SSO's audition process for musicians is rigorous. So what are the criteria for someone who wants to become a member of the SSO?  

Becoming a professional musician is very difficult. The number of years dedicated to perfecting mastership of their instrument is counted in decades. Besides hard work and practice, you must possess something that can't be taught or learnt. It is called talent and you must have that in order to be a musician. 

How does the SSO work? Do its members have regular rehearsals or only gather for the main season?

An orchestra is much like a sports team. It gathers daily to practice and prepare for specific events. Like athletes, individual musicians must also practice by themselves so that they can maintain and improve their skills. The more one practices, the better one gets. 

Do you enjoy working with Vietnamese musicians?

Vietnamese musicians are talented and very hardworking. Perhaps it's the Vietnamese language, for they can hear tones and subtleties in pitch very well. They are very open to new ideas and are very flexible to interpretation. It has been a great pleasure working with them.

How long has it been since the SSO's opening concert? Can you tell us something about its repertoire?

Our opening concert was in May 2018. We have premiered works by Vietnamese composers and explored many works in the classical repertoire. We have performed pop music as well as contemporary music. There are just too many to name. 

What’s your impression of Vietnamese audiences' understanding of classical music?

Our audience has always been very supportive and enthusiastic and we are all grateful for this. I believe that what they appreciate is our quality. You can’t explain to someone how to like music. It is spiritual. You just need to feel it. I believe that our audience understands this and feels it.

How do you rate the SSO in comparison with other local orchestras?  

The SSO is a very special orchestra. We don't compare ourselves with anyone. We just try to make the best music we can for the benefit of the Vietnamese people.

The Sun Symphony Orchestra, Vietnams first private orchestra, aims to promote Vietnamese talents, bring the finest international musicians to Vietnam and popularize scholarly music.

The Sun Symphony Orchestra, Vietnam's first private orchestra, aims to promote Vietnamese talents, bring the finest international musicians to Vietnam and popularize scholarly music.

Do you believe that the SSO will go beyond Vietnam's borders? 

With the support of the Sun Group, we aspire to be an internationally recognized orchestra of the highest level that will make Vietnam proud. That is our goal.

What is the core aspect of the SSO's development strategy? 

For the Sun Symphony Orchestra to succeed, we will need to become an integral part of the community. We can't just be looked at as some sort of entertainment. The SSO brand must go beyond that. 

As an institution that seeks to cultivate and celebrate the musical talents of Vietnam and the world, we must work hard to become part of this nation's soul. If we maintain our commitment to excellence and develop the resources that we already have I sincerely believe in our future.

 
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