"Nguoi Vien Xu"
"Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life."
Jean Paul Richter (1763 - 1825)
The Sound of Steinway
morning, the telephone rang when I was "plowing" the "Revolutionary" study.
The voice of a Japanese friend of mine was heard in the receiver. She told
me she just heard about a café & art gallery in
There are around 450 art galleries in this area. Art galleries in
In a society
where the interest in art ranks last of the list of interests among women
(a recent statistic report shows that only 19% of Japanese
women are interested in art compared to 47% interested in shopping), while
men reportedly have no interest at all in art, the business of art galleries
is rather sluggish. People including art collectors buy art based on
recommendations rather than on their own taste. This situation gave birth to
a class of quite snobby gallery owners. Therefore, it is really good news
that there is a café & art gallery in
As a matter of
fact, an art café in
o O o
As an amateur piano player, I often dream of buying a
Steinway grand when I get rich to replace my Yamaha GranTouch, which I
currently play at home (The bottom price of a brand-new Steinway grand in
This showroom also has three studios. Studio A is in
fact a concert hall with 88 seats and two Steinway concert grands D-274 on
the stage, the queens of all concert grand pianos. Studio B is a 17.5 m2
room with two Steinway grands D-274 and a sufficient space for around 7 - 8
listeners seating just behind the player. Studio C is 12.5 m2 large and has
one Steinway grand D-274. Therefore, after realizing
that the showroom is just one floor above café
Though rather small, café
My concern of
cigarette smoke was also scattered after learning that the major part of
guests coming here do not smoke in the café. Moreover, the Chuo ward,
where this building is located, is one of few wards in
Fifteen years ago, when I started my own style in a
surrealistic manner, I also painted a series of small-size works (up to 40
x 50 cm). In these experiments color, composition, contrast, thickness and
rhythm of brushstrokes and knife-strokes, etc. are the most important
elements to create the harmony of the painting and express the emotion of
the artist. The paintings in such a ¦childish² style were in factshort
studies in between lengthy surrealistic compositions, which took me months.
In 1991 I showed 40 paintings in this style together with 30 realistic and
surrealistic works at my solo show at the exhibition hall of the Vietnam
Fine Art Association in
There are many such studios in the downtown. The models - all of
them are young women - are introduced by representative companies. In the
last two years I have drawn more than one hundred of such sketches using
charcoal pencil, sanguine, and pen. Line is all which creates the beauty
of such a drawing. During the short breaks between drawing sªances, the
members of drawing club used to walk around to look at drawings of each
other. They used to ask me to put my sketches on a chair or easel for
people to look at, and sprinkled them with praises. Some said that the
line was so beautiful. Others noticed that though I used a pen - the most
difficult drawing device to handle as mistakes cannot be corrected - I
still could make precise lines. I only politely ... smiled. About twenty
five years ago, when I was a student of the Department of physics of
After measuring the sizes of the walls of the café, I planned to show 7 oil paintings and 5 nude drawings. I also displayed the collection of 28 surrealistic oil paintings of mine, which was recently published as a book entitled "The joy of imagination". After I informed my Japanese friends about this show, they proposed to hold a small opening party.
Knowing my "weak point" every time I see a grand piano, they also contacted Steinway Salon Tokyo upstairs and got an agreement from the salon that I would give a small performance on a Steinway grand in the salon on the opening day. The e-mail message, which I got from my friends, read: "Nocturne or Revolutionary please. It's a Steinway." Lovers of Chopin's music can easily decode this mobile-phone's message, namely: "Please play Nocturne No. 20 or Study No. 12 Opus 10 (Revolutionary). This is a good chance to play a Steinway grand piano."
Nocturne No. 20 C sharp minor became fashionable in
o O o
The opening of "Color and Line" - the name I called my solo show - took place smoothly, although I was not yet satisfied with my piano playing. My son, who has been learning the piano playing for nine years, told me after the performance: "Dad, you made at least five mistakes. You played much better when you practiced at home." My wife was generous, who said: "I think it was alright since dad went through all the pieces without a jam!" However, the audience was surprised because most of my Japanese friends did not know that I also play the piano apart from being a physicist and a painter, therefore they probably forgave my mistakes.
Japanese people quite often appreciate efforts more than results. However, to me art and music are those areas, where perspiration cannot replace inspiration. The piano prodigy Evgeni Kissin once said: "If a pianist practices more than four hours per day then there are only two possibilities: or he has no talent, or he has nothing else to do." OneJapanese friend of mine said: "The spirit and emotional intensity when playing Chopin are the most important things, and you were able to express them in your performance. This was what really counted." This comment encouraged me. Beside I have a couple of reasons to blame on. The first reason was that, just before the performance, I was busy hanging the paintings, hitting nails with a hammer. After that I accidentally washed my hands with cold water, which froze my fingers. The second reason was that I was not in the "organizing committee", which consisted of my friends. Therefore I was kind of hurry and nervous when coming in the piano showroom, forgetting to remove my watch, my wallet, and counting up to 30 before playing the first note. These are my rituals to calm down to get rid of the stage fear, in which I learned the counting trick from Sviatoslav Richter after seeing the movie "The enigma" of Bruno Monsaingeon. Finally, I told myself that, although I practiced everyday for one to two hours, who can avoid making any mistake when playing in public? Even such a talent like Yundi Li also banged a couple of wrong notes at the Chopin competition. These reasons pushed me to a "revenging" performance.
Knowing that my wife and some of her Japanese friends would visit my painting exhibition during the week, I decided to give a second performance. This time I made a careful arrangement, concentrating my mind solely on my piano performance. I called to the Steinway Salon and reserved studio B for one hour so that I had sufficient time to get use to the new instrument before the performance.
The sound of the Steinway concert grand D-274 was so wonderful that all my attempts to describe it by words would be meaningless. However, the following quote from Martha Argerich probably fits my case well. She said: "Sometimes a Steinway plays better than the pianist, and it is then a marvelous surprise." I played four pieces by Chopin, namely Nocturne No. 1 Op. 9 B flat minor, Mazurka No. 4 Op. 33 B minor, Revolutionary Study, and Nocturne No. 20 C sharp minor, with about 80% of the best I could produce when practicing at home. Adding to this the beautiful sound of the Steinway, I considered this performance a successful one. Leaving the showroom and guiding the guests downstairs to the café,I met the café's master, who announced cheerfully: "I just sold one more copy of your book." This was not a big amount. But the satisfaction is something, which cannot be measured by money.
rained on my way back home. The Tokyo's sky turned gray and low.
However, when you are in a good mood, even a dull day becomes a delightful
scenery. I dropped by a music shop near my home and bought a new CD, which
I had been waiting for. Coming home, I inserted the CD into the player. The
room was suddenly filled with the dramatic accords from Chopin's
Revolutionary Study played by the legendary Vladimir Horowitz, recorded
in 1972 at Carnegie Hall when he was 69 years old. His phrasing brought
goose bumps to the flesh. Horowitz was born in 1903 in
o O o
One Saturday morning I visited the solo show of my old friend, who is a
photographer. The show took place in one ofthe most luxurious restaurants
in Tokyo, which is located on the 47th floor of a
well-known advertising company. My friend introduced me to the
restaurant's manager, a handsome Italian. The young man opened the book
ofmy paintings "The Joy of Imagination" and said: "Wow! This is what I
really like!" A project of holding my solo show here was quickly sketched
out. I like the spacious atmosphere of this restaurant with tall walls full
of light. From this restaurant one can see the splendid view of the
Nguyen Dinh Dang
English version was written on March 16, 2004
by Nguyen Dinh Dang
 Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) - French painter, whose work "Impression, Soleil levant" (1873) initiated the Impressionism in painting.
 Afred Cortot (1877 - 1962) - French pianist and conductor, one of the great expressive pianists of 20th century.
 Evgeni Kissin (1971) - Russian pianist-prodigy, began to play the piano at the age of two,at the age of ten made his debut playing Mozart's Piano Concerto K. 466 with orchestra. He first came to international attention in 1984, when he performed the two Chopin concertos in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
 Sviatoslav Richter (1915 - 1997) - Russian pianist. With his compatriots, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and violinist David Oistrakh, he was responsible for the Soviet-American cultural exchange that began in the 1970s.
 Yundi Li (1982) - Chinese pianist, winner of the 14th Warsaw Chopin Competition in 2000.He is believed to be the youngest winner of this prestigious contest which has been held every five years since 1927.
 Martha Argerich (1941) - Argentine-born pianist, winner of the 7th Warsaw Chopin Competition in 1967 and member of the jury of this Competition later one, is regarded as one of greatest pianists of 20th century.
 Vladimir Horowitz (1903 - 1989) - Russian pianist, regarded as the 20th century's most accliamed pianist and the last of the true Romantic masters of the keyboard.
 According to Brian Schembri in Remembering Horowitz
Art-related articles by Nguyen Dinh Dang