He came to the West and has embarked on a successful career as a pianist, but he has never left behind the ancient traditional Vietnamese classical art as exemplified by repertoire for the Vietnamese zither. There is little interest in this music among the young in Vietnam today, but Tri Nguyen has made a point of keeping it alive by continuing to develop his formidable zither playing and increasingly presenting it to Western audiences.
As a beautiful example of that, he has joined forces with the 'Ilios String Quartet in an album that arranges traditional zither music and some new compositions for zither and quartet. Consonances (Lunelios CD 888 1001) gives us a full program of music of great beauty, adopting traditional pentatonic works and adding a classical reference here and there, such as an adroit intermingling of Mussorgsky's "Promenade" theme from "Pictures at an Exhibition" with a traditional Vietnamese melody that has great similarity.
It is a very effective melding of the zither and quartet. The quartet participates in the music with very characteristic parts that add much to the ambiance of the tradition without in any way diluting it. And Tri Nguyen sounds wonderful here.
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