Duos - Alone
2023 / Naxos World
Review by Kathy Parsons
Duos - Alone is an incredible new album from Paris-based Vietnamese artist Tri Nguyen, a musician I was introduced to via a track on Russ Hewitt's most-recent album, Chasing Horizons (2022). A classical pianist as well as a master of the đàn tranh, an ancient Vietnamese zither, Tri composed the music as a love letter to his late mother. A deeply personal project, the album includes a 20-page booklet in which Tri explains the inspiration and emotions behind each of the fourteen pieces - all written as a letter to his mother. Those writings offer amazing insight into the heart and soul of this artist as well as into the music.
The first notes of the music started coming to Tri a week after he returned to Paris after visiting his mother in Saigon just before the first Covid-19 lockdowns began happening all over the world in March 2020. Sitting alone in his apartment, Tri often gazes at a large painting his parents commissioned from one of the best artists in Vietnam. It hangs over his piano and close to his đàn tranh. Collaborating with other musicians was not possible due to the pandemic, so Tri set out to create an album of "Duos - Alone." Quoting Tri from the booklet: "It took me two and a half years, and two major lockdowns, to finish the pieces. I have put all my emotions, all my memories, and all my pains and hopes into this album. Your leaving us for the Heavens in March 2022 has given new life to other pieces that showcase my love for you."
The child of two cultures, Tri Nguyen was born in South Vietnam and studied classical piano under French-trained teachers starting at the age of five. At about the same time, his parents also found an old đàn tranh master to teach their son that ancient instrument as well. He graduated from the Music Conservatory of Saigon, and then continued his studies at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. Tri is the only concert musician in the world to master both the piano and the đàn tranh. He has performed in Vietnam, the US, and Europe, and has collaborated with prominent musicians from all over the world.
It is fascinating to note that Tri Nguyen has woven musical references to JS Bach, Vivaldi, and Ravel into some of his original compositions, creating a unique blending of time periods as well as diverse cultures with his heartfelt original work. It is impossible to be unmoved by the honesty and deep love expressed in this music. Reading the booklet takes this experience to a whole different dimension, providing Tri's listeners with a rare journey into the heart and soul of another human being who has experienced a deep and abiding love as well as devastating loss, and with time, acceptance. That Tri was able to express all of that in his music - a combination of two very different instruments and two very different cultures - has resulted in a deeply inspiring work of art.
Duos - Alone is an amazing experience that deepens with each listen, and I give it my highest recommendation. My one-word review would be "WOW!" The album and several singles are available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as various streaming sites including Spotify.
July 16, 2023