AMID the hustle of fast-developing Hanoi, its French colonial-style Opera House - restored 10 years ago after decades of darkness - stands as testament to how the Vietnamese people treasure and adapt the past to their present-day aspirations.
On Tuesday, the hall was filled with music that, although written in the Western classical music tradition, carried distinctively contemporary South-east Asian flavours.
Sponsored by Singapore's Keppel Group, it saw Singaporean conductor Adrian Tan lead the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra through a programme of compositions from the two countries.
While almost all the pieces ended with bangs that seemed forced rather than like natural climaxes, they were infused with a genuine warmth by the young orchestra, the musicians' discipline and exuberance making up for a slight lack of subtlety in interpretation.
Setting the tone for the night was the lushly romantic He Who Brings Happiness To His People by Trong Bang, a Vietnamese musical pioneer. Written in 1990 for the 100th anniversary of leader Ho Chi Minh's birthday, its heroic rhythms were easy to like, sounding patriotic without being nationalistic.
Meanwhile, the moody Enchanted Paths by Singapore composer Ho Chee Kong was indeed enchanting, with dance-like sections of restrained energy.
Bilateral exchange was emphasised in Bernard Tan's Piano Concerto, featuring Vietnamese pianist Tran Thi Tam Ngoc, an elegant and perceptive player who graduated from Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory this year.
While the concerto ultimately failed to build up to a satisfying conclusion due to the lack of a sustained musical narrative, the pianist was dazzling as she swept up and down the keyboard, infusing glamour into the Asian-inspired tunes.
Melbourne-based Singapore cellist Noella Yan evoked sultry nights with her droll, expressive sound on the powerful Song Of The Perfume River, a cello suite by Vietnam's Hoang Duong.
Though the night's finale, Kelly Tang's Symphonic Suite On A Set Of Local Tunes, lacked emotional punch, an encore of the lullaby-like traditional Vietnamese folk song A Song About Missing You tugged at the heartstrings with its tenderness, ending the night with a heartfelt goodbye.