Born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam, An Tran is considered a “Vietnamese guitar virtuoso” by the Austin Classical Guitar. After winning the 1st prize of the Vietnam National Guitar Competition at the age of 12, the internationally acclaimed guitarist has performed throughout North America and Asia. Deeply connected to his native country of Vietnam, An is bringing the traditional music of Vietnam to international concert stages. The 2017-2018 season brought An to different parts of the world, including his Texas debut in Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth as well as his Asia tour with destinations such as Hanoi and Bangkok in Fall 2018. An is the first prize winner of 2018 New Orleans International Guitar Competition and 2018 University of Rhode Island Guitar Competition, among many others.
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…”
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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