PPO IN TIP-TOP SHAPE FOR CARNEGIE HALL

View From The Wing
PPO IN TIP-TOP SHAPE FOR CARNEGIE HALL
by Pablo A. Tariman

A fairly good audience attended the send off concert of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra Friday night and they were not disappointed.

The PPO with Diomedes Saraza, Jr. and conductor Olivier Ochanine. All set for Carnegie Hall Jun 18, 2016. (Photo: Kenzo King)

The PPO with Diomedes Saraza, Jr. and conductor Olivier Ochanine. All set for Carnegie Hall Jun 18, 2016. (Photo: Kenzo King)

The 80-strong national orchestra under Olivier Ochanine did more than project its solid sound; it also sounded inspired and at par with its soloist, violinist Diomedes Saraza, Jr. who shone in the Sibelius violin concerto.

By and large, it was a fully re-energized PPO that the send-off audience heard and it started with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture where the orchestra showcased a grand entrance of the brass section.

The opening number had everything from synchronized rhythm and razor-sharp musical cohesion and with the conductor appearing to be in perfect command of his orchestra. He had worked hard to make this Carnegie Hall debut a big reality and here at last was his chance to show Filipino audiences they now deserved an international audience.

The evening’s piece de resistance was no doubt Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 with Diomedes Saraza, Jr. as its soloist.

Pianist Cecile Licad and tenor Ben Heppner after their first team up at Carnegie Hall.

Pianist Cecile Licad and tenor Ben Heppner after their first team up at Carnegie Hall.

It is a good choice for a concerto because it is not just a formidable challenge for the soloist but for the orchestra as well. Because even as it has virtuoso challenge for the soloist, the piece is indeed symphonic in scope requiring an equally superb orchestral ensemble.

Saraza’s musicality was at once clear with his subtle and gracious entrance in the sea of pianissimo of the string section. The concerto as a whole had more than had more than its share of lyrical and arresting turns highlighted by a pulse-stopping runs. The violinist is in top shape and delivered a riveting cadenza in the first movement. At the end of the concerto, Saraza signalled to one and all he is one of the best the country can be proud of in Carnegie Hall.

Redentor Romero’s Philippine Portraits will most likely elicit nostalgia among Filipinos abroad. Woven into the orchestra piece were several regional favorites (Sarung Banggi, Dadansoy and Pamulinawen, among others). The ethnic side of the Filipinos were clearly delineated in the Romero orchestral piece and later given contemporary portrait in the finale.

On the whole, it was PPO at its best.

CCP artistic director Chris Millado recalled the massive preparations for the Carnegie Hall debut which involved, among other things, the processing of visa requirements for some 80 members of the orchestra and crew. The round-trip air tickets included ten seats for the cellos which cannot be checked-in.

Pianist Cecile Licad in casual attire pose beside the PPO poster announcing  the historic  Carnegie Hall engagement.

Pianist Cecile Licad in casual attire pose beside the PPO poster announcing the historic Carnegie Hall engagement.

Advance parties had to work for meal and lodging accommodation for the 80-strong national orchestra. Millado also announced many people and entities helped made the trip possible among them the Ayalas who took care of the new uniforms of the members of the Philippine Philharmonic.

The Carnegie Hall program is a winner and with internationally acclaimed pianist Cecile Licad joining the orchestra in New York, the historic engagement will most likely be doubly memorable.

While Licad has performed in that highly revered venue many times, the June 20 engagement is also the Carnegie Hall debut of Saraza.

Let’s recall the Filipino classical musicians who made it there earlier.

A year after her Town Hall recital in New York in the late 40s, the late Filipino mezzo Conchita Gaston found herself face-to-face with the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, who found her good enough to sing with Beverly Sills in the Rosenkavalier duet, “The Presentation of the Rose” at Carnegie Hall in 1948.

Filipino violinist Gilopez Kabayao debuted in Carnegie Hall in 1950.

I have lost track how many times Licad had performed in Carnegie Hall but her last concerto there I think was Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 and I forgot the orchestra. I think she was 7-month pregnant when she performed with the Toronto Symphony in Carnegie Hall.

It was at Carnegie Hall where she was greeted by eminent musicians Leonard Bernstein and iconic violinist Isaac Stern. (The main hall of Carnegie Hall is now named the Isaac Stern Hall to remember the musician who fought for the venue when it s was threatened with demolition in the 1960s.)

A popular Carnegie Hall joke on its webpage attributed to the wife of violinist Mischa Elman. “One day, after a rehearsal that hadn’t pleased Elman, the couple was leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when they were approached by two tourists looking for the hall’s entrance. Seeing his violin case, they asked, ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?’ Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, ‘Practice.’”

Pablo Tariman in Carnegie Hall in the mid-90s. Photo: Paulo Licad.

Pablo Tariman in Carnegie Hall in the mid-90s. Photo: Paulo Licad.

(Elman helped Filipino violin prodigy Ernesto Vallejo get a US scholarship after hearing him in Manila in the late 20s.)

Meanwhile, Licad is headed for San Francisco after her June 18 Carnegie Hall engagement in a solo recital dubbed as a Philippine Independence Day concert on June 24.

Before she flew to New York, she was given a special birthday musicale by classical guitarist Aaron Aguila, first prize winner of the Jakarta International Guitar Competition.

Here are the box office links to the Licad engagements:

June 18,2016 – https://www.carnegiehall.org/…/Philippine-Philharmonic-Orc…/

June 24, 2016 – A solo recital,Herbst Theatre ,San Francisco, CA. https://www.cityboxoffice.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=2186.

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