View From The Wing — September 12 BDO F. Santiago Hall Recital
by Pablo A. Tariman

Of the more than 200 contestants who auditioned for the 2015 Joseph Joaquim International Violin Competition (JJIVC), only 39 qualified and one of them was young Filipino violinist Joaquin Ma. “Chino” Gutierrez.

Violinist Joaquin Ma. "Chino" Gutierrez and other finalists with the Moscovia String Orchestra conductor Edward Grach.

Violinist Joaquin Ma. “Chino” Gutierrez and other finalists with the Moscovia String Orchestra conductor Edward Grach.

Gutierrez — who has a recital with pianist J. Greg Zuniega on September 12 — admitted the election process was pretty tough with over 200 applicants.

On top of that, the contestant has to prepare a large and varied program consisting of an entire Bach solo sonata or partita, an Ysaye solo sonata, a romance by Joseph Joachim, a modern work commissioned specifically for the JJIVC, and a 35-min. recital which includes a Beethoven sonata and a virtuoso piece.

Gutierrez elaborates: “These are spread over two days. Contrast this with the first round of another famous international violin competition which requires only two movements from a Bach solo sonata or partita, and three Paganini caprices. From a competitive standpoint, this makes it much more challenging, but I actually like this set-up as it gives you a chance to show your depth and versatility, even as early as the first round. This is not the finals yet but from the difficulty of the repertoire, it may as well be.”

The 39 contestants recently underwent exhaustive master classes at the Keshet Eilon music camp in Israel conducted by Patinka Kopec for the first half of the course, and Alexander Vinnitski for the second half.

Joaquin Ma. Gutierrez with Israeli violin icon Ivry Gitlis.

Joaquin Ma. Gutierrez with Israeli violin icon Ivry Gitlis.

The big bonus is the presence of Israeli violin icon Ivry Gitlis who listened to his rendition of Ernest Bloch’s “Nigun” which is about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people.

Recalls Chino: “I remember asking him if I was able to bring the Jewish pain and pathos to my and he said, ‘The pain and the pathos are yours. These are what you bring to your music. Do not relate to your music based on how others will react or what others will say.’ In effect, he was telling me to always trust my inner voice. He also liked to advise students to ‘take risks’ and ‘not to play it safe’. I also remember him saying that ‘music, like love, is not polite’. I think he meant that one should dare speak the truth when one plays, without trying to seek approval or follow the rules all the time.”

What he learned from the close to three-week mastercourse went beyond acquiring better technique. “When you’re interacting closely for three weeks with the best and brightest, learning from the masters, and exchanging musical and creative ideas over meals, it’s like an overwhelming current of energy and motivation that’s sweeping you along and bringing out the best in you.”

The sessions with Prof. Gitlis were highly memorable for him. “ Prof. Gitlis is a highly philosophical, extremely witty, charming and fantastic human being. He doesn’t just teach violin; he passes on his philosophy about life in general, and violin-playing in particular. For example, he says that you don’t play music; the music plays you. He espouses an attitude of being one with the music, of surrendering yourself and feeling free. This does not imply a total disregard for technique, though, because it is only by mastering and having full control of your technique that you can afford to set it aside and ‘forget’ about it.”

Gutierrez also figured in the “Musica de Camara” (Sonata Concert) at Keshet Eilon where he played the Cesar Franck Sonata before the big audience at the insistence of his American mentor, Patinka Kopec.

Kopec is assistant to the celebrated Pinchas Zukerman at the Manhattan School of Music and with the great pedagogues Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian, the same as his first German teacher, Jens Ellermann. “As such, her methods were very familiar to me, and I was able to re-connect with and fortify many ideas that I had built up in my younger years. For the Franck Sonata, we discussed the concept of the ‘French sound’ and how to bring it out.”

Joaquin Ma. Gutierrez playing the Cesar Franck sonata with pianist Andy I. Feldbau.

Joaquin Ma. Gutierrez playing the Cesar Franck sonata with pianist Andy I. Feldbau.

Of the 39 mastercourse participants, only 12 were chosen to play in the culminating concert and one of them was again Gutierrez who played a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher with Moscovia String Orchestra under the baton of Russian conductor Edward Grach.

As the competition proper begins at the end of the month, Gutierrez says he prepares for it just like in one of his recital regimen. “I try to give 200% of my efforts to make sure I’ve ironed out all the kinks. There’s plenty of emphasis on technical stuff and correctness, but it must not stop there, otherwise your playing can come out sounding mechanical and cold. I keep in mind that there are other dimensions to preparing for a competition or a recital. I take long walks for exercise. I play with my dog. I watch movies and read books. In general, I try to stay upbeat and inspired, and engage in activities that feed the heart, the mind, and the soul, because I want to walk on stage as a whole person – not just a music-making machine.”

(The September 12 program of Gutierrez at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall with pianist J. Greg Zuniega includes Ysaye Sonata No. 6, Beethoven Sonata No. 1, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel,” Chausson’s “Poeme,” Gilopez Kabayao’s “Introduction & Pandanggo” and Wieniawski’s “Variations on an Original Theme.” For reservations, call 218-1864, 897-5239, 0915 189 2998 and 0917 832 5694.)

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