An Tran is an internationally acclaimed Vietnamese Classical Guitarist and winner of over 13 international competitions and awards. An has been praised for his “gorgeous playing” and “flawless technique” by the KnoxTNToday and received many accolades for his dynamic artistry including being hailed as a “Vietnamese guitar virtuoso” by Austin Classical Guitar. Deeply connected to his native country of Vietnam, An is bringing the traditional music of Vietnam to international concert stages. His newest and highly anticipated solo album entitled “Stay, My Beloved” was included in the "Recordings of the Year" by Chicago Tribune and was described by Classical Guitar Magazine as "to make the year-end Top Ten classical guitar albums of the year". An Tran is on the faculty of Northern Illinois University and is an exclusive artist of D’Addario.
Classical Guitar Magazine: “An Tran’s just-released Stay, My Beloved (Vietnamese Guitar Music) is sure to make the year-end Top Ten list of my favorite classical guitar albums of the year. Still undeniably a classical-guitar album, with reference points Western audiences will recognize–highly virtuosic passages that display what a gifted guitarist An Tran truly is, whether effortlessly flying through dazzlingly speedy runs, or complex rhythmic shifts, unusual harmonies, or the many “effects” he employs.”
Tonebase: “The album itself is structured in a way that brings the listener on a journey through Vietnam.”
Six String Journal: “There is perhaps no better way to experience a culture than to listen to its folk music. It evokes myth, stories, history, and landscape. An Tran’s magical playing does all of this…”
In Dorchester, the quiet virtuosity of Vietnamese guitarist An Tran
The introspective solo concert presented by Ashmont Hill Chamber Music offered a welcome departure from standard guitar-recital fare
In recent years, presenting organization Ashmont Hill Chamber Music has broadened the scope of its recital series to include music that doesn’t neatly fit into the Western classical tradition, and the experience is much richer for that. A program of Bach mixed with North Indian music was one standout before the pandemic shut the recital series down, and last fall the group welcomed Iraqi maqam group Safaafir.
Guitarist An Tran didn’t arrive at his solo recital at Ashmont’s All Saints Church on Sunday afternoon with any unfamiliar instruments; two exquisite classical guitars made by Boston-based luthier Stephan Connor were his only luggage. But anyone who was expecting the standard guitar-recital blend of Bach and Iberian repertoire was in for a surprise. When Europeans brought the guitar to Vietnam, the country’s traditional music already featured fretted and stringed instruments, and over the 100-plus years since, several uniquely Vietnamese guitar traditions have flourished. Now, writes Classical Guitar magazine, Vietnam has become a classical guitar hot spot, and Tran stands to become one of its most prominent ambassadors.
The world is loud in comparison to an acoustic guitar. In the few moments before the concert began, several sounds shattered the anticipatory silence: a chair creaking as someone dragged it across the floor, a cough, a child outside in the hallway calling for his mother. Tran hadn’t even played a note, but already the ears were acutely attuned.
And over the next 80 minutes, give or take a few, he graced the small but robust Sunday afternoon crowd with a slew of pieces from his 2020 debut album, “Stay, My Beloved,” featuring arrangements of Vietnamese traditional songs and original pieces written for guitar by composers Nguyen The An and Dang Ngoc Long. When some enthusiastic children piped up during the finale of Nguyen’s epic folktale-inspired “Bamboo Child” suite, Tran took it in stride with a smile.
Whether playing a low pentatonic melody with his thumb while the other four fingers murmured over the higher strings, or tapping the fretboard to create a dulcimer-like sound, he executed every phrase with subtle, graceful virtuosity. Some sections of the “Bamboo Child” suite recalled Renaissance lute music; other melodies wouldn’t have sounded at all out of place had they been played on a fuzzy surf guitar. With its gentle ephemerality, the music invited introspection.
No program notes were provided, but Tran chatted briefly about each selection as he rested and tuned between pieces. His comments added even more emotional resonance to pieces such as Nguyen’s bittersweet and tender “Lullaby,” which the guitarist dedicated to victims of COVID-19 and anyone who had lost a parent; and the soft but relentlessly hopeful “Remembrance,” which the Berlin-based composer Dang wrote to support a fellow Vietnamese friend whom he said was experiencing a mental health crisis. Another high point was Dang’s piece “Rain,” in which Tran coaxed pinging tones that evoked the composer’s childhood memory of drizzles and downpours falling on the metal roofs common in Vietnam. The acoustically exquisite Peabody Hall allowed this intricate music to shine.
Tran mentioned candidly that his only other performance in Boston was 10 years ago, with a choir, but if Sunday’s recital was any indication, it won’t take another decade before he and his guitars return to town. In the meantime, for anyone who missed Sunday’s performance, there’s his album, which is worth 45 minutes of your time; listen on a rainy spring day, like the many that are surely just around the corner.
Video Pick of the Week: An Tran Plays the Traditional Vietnamese Tune ‘Stay, My Beloved’; Plus A Review of His Great New Album
APRIL 25, 2020
Stay, My Beloved (Vietnamese Guitar Music)
I know it’s only late April as I write this, but I can already tell that An Tran’s just-released Stay, My Beloved (Vietnamese Guitar Music) is sure to make the year-end Top Ten list of my favorite classical guitar albums of the year. Although An Tran has spent much of his still-young life studying and playing in the U.S. (he earned his master’s degree under Ben Verdery at Yale), he is still very much a product of his native Vietnam, where he started playing guitar at the age of 8, tutored by a guitarist named Nguyen Hai Thoai, and later attended the Vietnam National Academy of Music, where he studied with Vu Viet Cuong. Though his guitar education in the U.S., years of participating (successfully) in competitions, and also teaching have given him a thorough grounding in the classical guitar repertoire of every era and style, it’s clear he’s never forgotten his roots in Vietnam.
The proof is in every minute of his Stay, My Beloved album, which contains seven solo guitar pieces written by or arranged from traditional songs by a pair of contemporary Vietnamese composers, Nguyen The-An and Dang Ngoc Long. Now, I am an unabashed fan of many Asian music forms, from traditional Chinese and Japanese instrumental music, to Javanese gamelan, to Indian ragas and other folk forms. I’ve had relatively little exposure to the music of Vietnam, but I can still recognize in it elements that I’ve heard and loved in the folk music of other Asian countries, particularly China. And though many of the traditional instruments of Vietnamese folk music are unique to that region, they have analogs in other countries—zithers; fiddles; flutes; all sorts of stringed instruments of varying numbers of strings, some akin to banjos, others more lute-like; etc. Vietnamese music also employs various modal scales and particular intervals that give the music much of its character. I don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to describe what’s going on musically to create the skipping quality of some melodic lines, or the spare, deliberate approach to others, where the combination of notes and the way they fall together, perhaps encased in an irregular rhythmic thrumming, is so distinctively compelling. But I appreciate its haunting beauty and also its power.
Stay, My Beloved is filled with those moments (including ones where An Tran is clearly mimicking the sounds of traditional instruments), and yet is still undeniably a classical-guitar album, with reference points Western audiences will recognize–highly virtuosic passages that display what a gifted guitarist An Tran truly is, whether effortlessly flying through dazzlingly speedy runs, or complex rhythmic shifts, unusual harmonies, or the many “effects” he employs: damping and snapping strings, bending notes, percussive strumming up and down the neck, fluttering cascades of notes; his uniquely Asian tremolo. It’s an amazing potpourri of styles and approaches, but they all hang together marvelously, and coalesce into a sort of enormous impressionist watercolor that depicts landscapes and the sounds of nature, and tell stories and talk about human emotions. (An Tran’s descriptive liner notes about each tune are very illuminating in this regard.)
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Gran Sonata Eroica, Op. 150
3 Keyboard Sonatas
I. Sonata in G Major, K.146
II. Sonata in A Major, K.208
III. Sonata in D Major, K.178
5 Bagatelles for Guitar
No. 1. Allegro
No. 2. Lento
No. 5. Con slancio
Guitar Sonata, Op. 47
3 Preludes for Guitar
Prelude 1 (Homage to the Brazilian sertanejo)
Prelude 3 (Homage to Bach)
Prelude 4 (Homage to the Brazilian Indian)
Dang Ngoc Long
Beo Dat May Troi (Vietnamese Folk Song)
Central Highlands of Vietnam
Nguyen The An
Nguoi Oi Nguoi O Dung Ve (Vietnamese Folk Song)
An Tran is an internationally acclaimed Vietnamese Classical Guitarist and winner of over 13 international competitions and awards. Based in Chicago, USA, An has been praised for his “gorgeous playing” and “flawless technique” by the KnoxTNToday, and received many accolades for his dynamic artistry including being hailed as a “Vietnamese guitar virtuoso” by Austin Classical Guitar. Crafting his signature style by merging world cultures with Vietnamese classical music he, was invited to teach, perform and judge at various festivals including the Milwaukee Latino Arts Guitar Festival, Latin American International Guitar Festival, New Orleans International Guitar Festival, Hamilton International Guitar Festival (Canada), and Lone Star Guitar Festival (Texas), to name a few.
Building on the momentum of his many successes, An collaborated with Vietnamese composers Nguyen The-An and Dang Ngoc Long for his latest 7-track solo album entitled “Stay, My Beloved”, which was included in the "Recordings of the Year" by Chicago Tribune and was described by Classical Guitar Magazine as “to make the year-end Top Ten list of my favorite classical guitar albums of the year”. Released on Frameworks Records in April 2020, the album portrays varying elements of traditional instruments expressed by An’s virtuosic guitar playing. Taking listeners on an emotional journey through the rich soundscapes of Vietnam, An is set to grace the stages in Germany, France and Spain on his upcoming European CD release tour in 2021.
An has captivated audiences throughout North America and Asia, including concerts for Bangkok Guitar Society, Toronto International Guitar Series and will be performing at the prestigious Segovia Classical Guitar Series in Chicago. He won several International Guitar Competitions in Berlin, New Orleans, Rhode Island and the Society of American Musicians in Chicago, among many others. Gaining inspiration from the interconnectedness of music, cultures and people, An developed and refined his skills and techniques for over two decades and studied in masterclasses with many world-renowned guitarists.
An Tran is on the faculty at Northern Illinois University. He received his B.A in Music and the Distinguished Young Alumni Award from North Park University, studying with Julie Goldberg and Tom Zelle. An received his Master of Music along with the Southeast Asia Studies Fellowship from Yale University, studying with Benjamin Verdery. Currently a Dorothy and Carl Johnson endowed Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at Northwestern University studying with Anne Waller, An continues to transcend boundaries with his music.
An Tran is an exclusive artist of D’Addario and managed by Jean Schreiber Management/Classics Alive Artists in Los Angeles, USA. An performs on guitars made by Stephan Connor in Boston, USA. Follow An on Instagram/Facebook @antranguitar. Concert dates and more information can be found at www.antran.org.