Burmese Orchestra Joins With French Quartet for Concerts

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 14 November 2013

RANGOON — More than a decade since it played its first notes, the Myanmar National Symphony Orchestra will next month take its first overseas tour, under a cultural, orchestral and choreographic event called Fondamentus.

Led by French composer Odile Perceau, the 26-member string section of the orchestra will be joined by French string quartet Le Quatuor Des Equilibres to perform masterpieces by Bach and Handel, as well as original compositions by Perceau. They will play for two days at Cambodia’s sacred temple Angkor Wat in early December, where the orchestra will perform with the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.

During a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday, Perceau—who has trained members of the Burmese orchestra for nearly 30 days over the past three months—said the Burmese musicians will play a major role in the concerts, on what will be their first time on tour as a group.

“I feel proud to be able to have trained them, to let know the world about Myanmar through music. They are talented,” she said through a Burmese interpreter.

The French ambassador to Burma, Thierry Mathou, said the concert also represents the first-state level cooperation between Burmese and French government.

“Since two years ago when Myanmar began opening up, France has wanted to work together with Myanmar government in the information and culture sector,” he said. “We have sent our proposals, like this concert, as our priority to Myanmar government.”

Ahead of the Cambodian tour, the orchestra will play in Rangoon and Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma, on Nov. 21 and 23, respectively. Although Fondamentus was initially scheduled to be performed at the old palace in Mandalay, the plan was changed thanks to “technical issues,” the ambassador said.

“We had to move it to the National Theater there. It’s sad,” he added.

The composer explained what makes Fondamentus a unique event is that, contrary to most orchestral performances, the musicians will play without glancing at written music.

“It might be challenging for them, but I’ve encouraged them to make it happen as this is the first concert to show the world that Burmese can do it,” she said.

For violinist Aye Thida, the tour abroad will be a happy moment, and an exciting opportunity to represent the country.

“I believe we can do it, and it will be something for Burmese to be proud of, as this is the first time we will perform as whole outside the country since the orchestra was founded,” said Aye Thida, who is also a conductor for the orchestra.

According to Aye Thida, the Myanmar National Symphony Orchestra was founded in 2000 by the Ministry of Information, and is mostly made up of graduates from Rangoon’s National University of Arts & Culture. Normally, the orchestra has nearly 60 players but for the tours, Perceau said, she has just picked the string section to match the French string quartet.

“I hope both Myanmar and French musicians could play in harmony as well as with Royal Ballet in Cambodia. If so, everyone will have a perfect musical evening!” she said.

Fondamentus is produced by Le Khloros Concert and co-organized by the Cambodian APSARA Authority with the support of Unesco, the Burmese and French governments.