View From The Wing
VIOLINIST CHINO GUTIERREZ TO PRESIDENT DUTERTE: ‘CLASSICAL MUSIC MAY SEEM GALAXIES AWAY FROM DRUGS AND CRIME BUT IT IS JUST AS RELEVANT’
By Pablo A. Tariman
Violinist Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez is all of 26 years old but believe it or not, he has been making music for close to two decades.
You can sense his evolution as a musician as he talks about his September 17 program at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall with pianist Mary Anne Espina. “I’ll be playing a variety of works from Mozart to Paganini. I chose them all for their free-flowing and engaging yet by no means simplistic nature. They’re all works you can lose yourself in, whether as a performer or listener, which is the main reason I titled this concert ‘In the Zone.’
There is a Mozart sonata in the first half, a Faure sonata and a Tchaikovsky number all of which hold special meaning for him. “The Mozart is an old favorite of mine; it’s very noble and graceful, deceptively simple, but if played wrong can be painfully boring. The Fauré, on the other hand, is a new favorite. It embodies the free-flowing yet dynamic character which is central to the concert.”
One thing he looks forward to is being reunited with pianist Mary Anne Espina with whom he has been playing together for around nine years. “Come to think of it, that makes for a lot of collaborations. We are familiar with each other’s instincts and playing style, and have developed a closeness through the years that translates itself to solid rapport during performances. We have good energy on stage and our chemistry is real. She’s a superb pianist, a very fast learner, and does not back off from big or difficult projects – a quality which I appreciate because I am pretty bold myself, and not averse to taking on challenges or trying out new things. Our collaboration for this concert is taking place after a space of six years of not having performed together. It feels safe and exhilarating at the same time – safe because of the familiarity, but exhilarating because we have both grown musically in so many ways that our music-making now has a different flavor and feel to it.”
At his age now, he enjoys performing more than ever. “As regards my technique, all the teachers I’ve worked with say there’s nothing more to worry about; my technique is now secure. It’s so liberating not to have to worry about the million and one technical details every so often. Of course, there’s the usual cleaning and polishing which a violinist has to do on a daily basis, but I believe I’ve entered a phase where making music and unleashing one’s creativity are now the top priority. I am excited by the prospect of more performances, more collaborations, sharing my music with more audiences.”
Indeed, he started quite early and made significant impressions enough for the late conductor Oscar Yatco to call him the Cecile Licad of the violin.
He was only 7 when he took his first violin lesson, and two years later placed second in the National Music Competition for Young Artists.
At 10, he bagged the top prize and made his orchestral debut at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole. He was easily accepted at Munich’s prestigious State Academy of Music and Theater, where pedagogue Jens Ellermann instantly classified him as “a major talent.”
Last year, he was good enough to qualify for the 2015 Joseph Joaquim International Violin Competitions where over 200 contestants applied. Only 39 qualified and one of them was Gutierrez.Although he didn’t make it in the top finalists, he learned substantial lessons that made him realize just being good is not enough.
He recalled: “At the JJV (Joseph Joachim Violin Competition), I witnessed up close the incredibly high standards of playing that all the contestants were adhering to. I mean, any one of the contestants could have emerged the winner. Everyone was that good. I was surprised – even shocked – when fantastic violinists were eliminated before the semi-finals. In the final analysis, winning was just a matter of being the person that the judges were looking for at that particular time. It was really a matter of taste. I was able to confirm this during the jury consultations after the competition. A Rumanian juror said she loved my interpretation of the Bach Chaconne; it was exactly the way she would have played it. On the other hand, an Italian juror belonging to the ‘old school’ said he didn’t agree with it because he wanted a steady tempo from start to finish. In the end, it all comes down to playing what you believe in, and if you can pull it off and the judges happen to agree with your interpretation, that’s great. If not, you know you played music that was honest and you’re still a damn good musician anyway.”
He is still feeling his way on how the arts will thrive under a new president and it is too early to give a verdict. Nevertheless, his message to the new head of state: “Mr. President, classical music may seem galaxies away from drugs and crime. But I assure you – it is just as relevant. As Pablo Picasso once said: ‘Art washes away the dust of everyday life.’ Please, give our classical musicians a chance to flourish and be competitive in the international scene. Simply put: make funds more readily available for studies both locally and abroad, and help them secure better instruments. Give them the wings to fly, and they will bring our country places.”
(The September 17, 2016 concert of violinist Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez with pianist Mary Anne Espina at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati City starts at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, call 09151892998 or 2181864.)