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Play that music again, Sam

By Pablo A. Tariman
Inquirer News Service

MY CHOICES for conductors of the year are Jun Fujimoto from Japan who led the Peace Philharmonic of the Philippines in Cebu in the rendering of Dvorakís Symphony No. 8, and Christoph Poppen for leading the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra in the superb reading of Mahlerís The Titan. Fujimoto also proved an excellent accompanist when he teamed up with pianist Ingrid Salas Santamaria in the A Minor Grieg Concerto.

In the last PPO season, the violin soloists of the year are Eliza Quirit (in the Bruch concerto) under her father, Julian Quirit, and Oscar Yatco (in the Beethoven D Major Concerto) under Francisco Feliciano.

These two are generations away from each other, but they have one thing in common: uncommon musical instinct with true discipline to boot.

Other unusual soloists of the year are the Padilla twins from Cebu, Duane and Daniel, who figured in the Bach and Vivaldi Concertos for Two Violins with the then Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra. You see double when you see these soloists, but they turned out to be a highly synchronized ensemble playing Bach and Vivaldi favorites.

Among the singers, my soloists of the year are Jonathan Zaens (for Mozartís Madamina with the Manila Philharmonic under Rodel Colmenar), soprano Andion Fernandez (for Mozartís Come scollo with the Manila Philharmonic), soprano Rachelle Gerodias (for Carl Orffís Carmina Burana with the PPO under Ruggiero Barbieri) and Gary del Rosario (also with the PPO under Barbieri along with soprano Camille Lopez). This new crop of Filipino singers is worthy of the tradition of excellence set by Evelyn Mandac and Otoniel Gonzaga.

Three generations of singers--Francisco Aseniero, Nolyn Cabahug and Gary del Rosario--were re-engaged by the PPO in a year-end Three Tenors Concert but poor programming failed to elicit the best from the singers. Christmas carols are good as desserts in a musical meal, but we had expected main courses for tenors.

Mozartís Don Giovanni made an inauspicious return to the CCP courtesy of the Opera Guild of the Philippines, but it didnít convert new opera fans; it sent seasoned operagoers fleeing during the intermission and the most determined ones weeping at the end of the last note of the opera. The sets didnít inspire nor did the singers. Someone suggested that since there was no budget for sets, the entire opera should have been deconstructed with MalacaŮang as the setting and with an honest-to-goodness Don Juan counting his true-to-life conquests in the aria "Madamina."

In terms of publicity and broadcast exposure, pop singer Martin Nievera became PPOís soloist of the year, thanks to ABS-CBN, which kept the CCP box office ringing until curtain time.

Pianist Felipe Ramirez played the Lisztís First Concerto with the PPO, but didnít make anything fresh out of this hard-beaten warhorse and the piece remained what it was--a show-off concerto.

Pianists Raul Sunico and Della Besa did their best in Mendelssohnís Concerto for Two Pianos, but the presence of Carlf Orffís Carmina Burana at the end of the program literally wiped them off the nightís repertoire. What stood out was Jonathan Velascoís Philippine Chamber Choir with Rachelle Gerodias as soloist. Talk of unfair programming.

My choices of Recitalists of the Year:

Romanian violinist Alexander Tomescu with Mary Anne Espina at the Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati and in Virac, Catanduanes. Formidable technique and consummate artistry certainly made Tomescu a worthy recipient of the Sir Yehudi Menuhin Prize in Paris.

Cellist Angela Lee with pianist J. Greg Zuniega at the St. Stephenís Concert Hall in Manila and at the Hotel Romanís Ville in Ilagan, Isabela. Total rapport with her pianist and a way with Beethoven and Shostakovich make this lady cellist stand out. Her musicality was so overwhelming she converted more music lovers to the art of the cello and kept them asking for more.

Bass baritone Jonathan Zaens with pianist Mark Carpio at the CCP Little Theater. This Germany-based singer was the saving grace of the CCP Filipino Artists Series and proved to one and all that power isnít everything in the art of singing. His exquisite vocal artistry could be summed up in one entry that night, Strauss "Traum Durch Die Dammerung" (Dream in a Twlight) which rendered everyone speechless and in awe of the singer.

After his stint with the PPO, Del Rosario returned to Manila in August and with pianist Nita Ablogar-Quinto performed in a stunning recital in Ilagan, Isabela and Cebu.

In his hands, Verdi and Puccini had found a safe niche and music lovers of Isabela and Cebu reciprocated with one standing ovation after another.

At yearís end with the impeachment trial hugging the limelight, Russian violinist Anastasia Chebotareva with pianist J. Greg Zuniega braved the countryís volatile political landscape and played Mozart, Wienawsky and Massenet in Manila and Isabela. In Santiago City, people in nearby San Isidro town--led by their parish priest Fr. Gerald Vidad--trooped to Carig Plaza Hotel to watch their first violin recital and were in awe of the beauty and musicality of the Russian artist. A surprise encore was Ilagan Bishop Sergio Utleg playing Romero-Zubiriís Matud Nila with La Chebotareva. Pandemonium ensued.

The same standing ovation was repeated at the Hotel Romanís Ville in Ilagan town the following night where for an hour, the Russian violinist allowed audiences to enjoy music at the height of the damaging Clarissa Ocampo testimony.

The opening and closing concerts of the First Cagayan Valley International Music Festival both were capped by standing ovations, which proved that classical had long been missed and cherished in this part of Northern Luzon.

Here and there

NOW that pianist Ariel Dechosa got two standing ovations for his solo recitals in Manila and Cebu, now is the chance to see him work with an orchestra when he debuts with the Philippine Philharmonic today, under the baton of Chino Toledo. The concerto: Beethoven No. 5 known as The Emperor. Cellist Willie Pasamba is soloist in Laloís cello concert on Jan. 29 at the CCP Little Theater with former Spanish Ambassador Delfin Colome conducting the Philippine Philharmonic.

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