Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Aegis' music goes to theater with PETA's Rak of Aegis

January 31-March 9, 2014
PETA Theater Center
No. 5 Meynard Drive, New Manila
Quezon CityPhilippines

Actor-musician Myke Salomon, in his usual wacky self, made a joke that there should be Rak of Aegis also during the time when the musical Rock of Ages was still having its sold out run in here. This joke was a light bulb moment for Maribel Legarda, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) Artistic Director. Almost a couple of years later, the joke Rak of Aegis is now a brand new musical featuring the music of the legendary pop-rock band Aegis that is set to sweep the local theater scene starting on January 31, 2014 and will go on for six weekends until March 9, 2014 at the PETA Theater Center.

Isay Alvarez-Seña and Robert Seña

A total of 20 songs from the Aegis catalog, ranging from chart topping hits to unreleased gems will be belted out by the cast led by Isay Alvarez-Seña, Robert Seña, Aicelle Santos, and Joan Bugcat. Also included in the cast are Kalila Aguilos, Ron Alfonso, Jet Barrun, Kakai Bautista, Poppert Bernadas, Gimbey Dela Cruz, Neomi Gonzales, Pepe Herrera, Carlon Matobato, Julienne Mendoza, John Moran, Jerald Napoles, Gie Onida, Phillip Palmos, Myke Salomon, Paeng Sudayan, and Gold Villar.

Rak of Aegis is described as a story of love, fame and resilience set in the Ondoy devastated village of Villa Venizia. At the center of the story is Aileen (Acielle Santos alternating with Joan Bugcat), a young mall promo girl aka promodizer who is seeking fame via uploading videos online to support her family. And love gets in the way not only for Aileen but also for her father and the rest of the residents of Villa Venizia.

Aicelle Santos and Rak of Aegis cast

This musical is the brainchild of director Maribel Legarda and writer Liza Magtoto, the same duo behind Care Divas, PETA’s hit comedy musical. Musical arrangement and musical direction is by Myke Salomon. The rest of the artistic team includes Gio Gahol (choreography), Jonjon Villareal (lighting design), Mio Infante (production design), Carlo Pagunaling (costume design), Maco Custodio (shoe design), and Joan Pamintuan (accessory design).

During the press launch held at the PETA Theater Center, I was able to hear Aicelle Santos belt the songs out in the same key as Aegis, extending beyond the range that she normally performs as an alto with her trio La Diva. It was also teased that comedienne Kakai Bautista will have one solo aria which could possibly one of the most highly anticipated scenes in the whole musical. Aicelle and Kakai along with the rest of the cast auditioned for their roles with the exception of the Señas: Isay and Robert. The real life couple told the press that this is one of the rare times that the two of them would not be playing a couple on stage. Instead, they would be playing former lovers who end up with someone else. This adds another layer to the story in which the tension and unresolved conflicts will be brought to light as their village remains submerged in flood waters.

Kakai Bautista and Rak of Aegis cast

Myke Salomon, during a brief chat, told me that it was not only Aicelle who would be singing the songs in their original key but also Robert Seña. Aegis is known for the lung busting, vocal cord tearing tunes (usually of heartbreak) sung by the band’s vocalists Juliet and Mercy Sunot. And it would be definitely very interesting to hear Robert’s attack with these songs that have ingrained themselves in Philippine pop culture.

All this may have started as a joke, but as opening night draws near, I can’t help but feel the excitement of hearing Aegis music on stage, seeing how PETA will pull of the arena staging with actual water and how the production will fare as it goes head to head with a major touring production.

The cast and crew of Rak of Aegis

Schedule of performances:

January 31, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 1, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 2, 2014, 10:00 AM & 3:00 PM

February 7, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 8, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 9, 2014, 10:00 AM & 3:00 PM

February 14, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 15, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 16, 2014, 10:00 AM & 3:00 PM

February 21, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 22, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
February 23, 2014, 10:00 AM & 8:00 PM

February 27, 2014, 8:00 PM
February 28, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
March 1, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
March 2, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM

March 6, 2014, 8:00 PM
March 7, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
March 8, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
March 9, 2014, 10:00 AM & 3:00 PM

For inquiries:
PETA Theater Center 725-6244 local 23, (0916) 437-6551, peta.theatercenter@gmail.com
TicketWorld 891-9999

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Producers

When I watched Repertory PhilippinesThe Producers, I had to leave political correctness at the door and not to take offense too easily. If I adhered to what others refer to as my usual stuffy, uptight self, then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this comedic rollercoaster ride that poked fun at stereotypes and taboos. Cast member Topper Fabregas who played Leo Bloom said during the press conference that the audience would laugh so hard that they would have abs by the end of the show. I did laugh hard during the entire show but it was not enough to dissolve the flab and reveal the abs.

To say that the premise of this musical is absurd is an understatement. In The Producers, a has been producer Max Bialystock (Carlo Orosa) and a washed out accountant Leopold Bloom (Topper Fabregas) join forces and scheme to produce the worst musical possible so that they could scam $2,000,000 from investors comprised mainly of horny old women. The musical follows the duo’s quest to assemble the worst script (written by Franz Liebkind played by Joel Trinidad), director (a flamboyantly gay Roger de Bris played by Audie Gemora) and come up with the funds through Max’s seduction of several horny old women. All this led the duo to produce Springtime for Hitler which they expected to flop big time. But opening night turned out to be an unprecedented success and this eventually ruined their well thought of plan.

Mel Brooks’ irreverent humor pushes boundaries and this production especially the cast didn’t hold back. Carlo Orosa exuded swagger as the scheming and seducing Max. Topper embodied the clueless and awkward nature of Leo. G Töngi might have played the ditzy Ulla Inga Hanson Benson Yanson Tallen Hallen Svadon Swanson but she had one of the most physically challenging roles and was able to showcase in the show her dance training. Joel Trinidad as Franz basically adhered to the stereotypical German in lederhosen that was easy to laugh at.

But it was Audie Gemora as Roger De Bris who stole the show. Dressed in a silver, shimmery gown at one point, Audie portrayed probably his most daring role to date. I once told him that I expected a lot more dancing from him during his I Was Here... concert and he definitely didn’t lack in the dancing department here at The Producers with the cartwheel and the split. It was also nice to see Noel Rayos twirl his way on the stage as Roger’s common law assistant Carmen Ghia. The last time I saw him was during Lorenzo wherein he was still confined to a wheelchair. As always, the ensemble tackled numerous roles often requiring quick changes. Their chameleon like performances added more depth and variety to the musical despite their relatively small number.

I did find that almost all of the songs did not have what it took to leave melodies in my head way after the show with the exception of Ulla’s If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It. But it’s the humor, once one conditions himself not to take things seriously, that really sold the show. And it was also during this time when I realized that Alice in Wonderland was still ongoing during The Producers’ run and that both productions had to share the not just the same Onstage theater at Greenbelt, but the same resources and sometimes the same actors. It was amazing to see firsthand how Repertory Philippines is able to handle their concurrent children’s production and their big musical.

Monday, January 20, 2014

ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra presents free concert for public school students

February 11, 2014, 1:00 & 4:00 PM
Aliw Theater
CCP Complex, Pasay City

ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra
Gerard Salonga, conductor

Young public school students are in for a music treat as the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra presents Musicoveries, a free concert on February 11, 2014, 1:00 and 4:00 PM at the Aliw Theater.

This educational concert aims to introduce the young audience to the orchestra: the instruments, inner workings, and ultimately the relevance of orchestral music today. The audio-visual performance will also demonstrate how different emotions are conveyed in films through music, how melodies can tell stories, and much more. Gerard Salonga conducts in this concert which will also be graced by guest performers from the ABS-CBN Kapamilya roster.

The Aliw Theater can accommodate five thousand students. Interested public schools and NGO’s who wish to send kids to watch Musicoveries can contact Karlo Cea at 415-2272 loc. 2409, (0915)-624-6808, and karlo_cea-ctl@abs-cbn.com.

Students will definitely benefit from this exposure to the orchestra and symphonic music for studies have shown that exposure in music increases confidence, improves language skills, and helps in the appreciation of culture.

For inquiries:
Karlo Cea 415-2272 loc. 2409, 0915-6246808, karlo_cea-ctl@abs-cbn.com 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Global opera superstar Sumi Jo to perform in one night only concert in Manila

February 1, 2014, 8:00 PM
Samsung Hall
SM Aura Premier, Taguig

Sumi Jo, soprano
Najib Ismail, piano

Global opera superstar Sumi Jo, considered as one of the leading sopranos in the world today, will be performing at a one night only concert here in Manila this February 1, 2014, 8:00 PM at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura Premier in Taguig. Pianist Najib Ismail will be accompanying her in this concert.

Described by Maestro Herbert Von Karajan, the legendary Austrian orchestra and opera conductor associated with the Berlin Philharmonic, as “The Voice from Above”, this Grammy Award-winning South Korean lyric coloratura soprano is known for her interpretations of the bel canto repertoire.

She has sung in all the important opera houses in the world, including Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera Houses, Salzburg Festspielhaus, Vienna State Opera, to name a few. 

Her 2013-14 schedule includes singing these roles: Lucia in Strasbourg, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris; La sonnambula in Brussels and Santiago, Chile; I Capuleti e i Montecchi with the Minnessota Opera;  Olympia in New York; Rosina in New York; the Queen of the Night in Los Angeles; Gilda in Bilbao, Oviedo, Bologna, Trieste, and Detroit among others; Il turco in Italia in Spain; L'enfant et les sortilèges in Boston and Pittsburgh; Le comte Ory in Rome; and Dinorah in New York.
Sumi Jo also appeared in performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées,  Opéra National de Paris, Washington Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opera Australia and the  Teatro Colón. 

Soprano Sumi Jo

Aside from singing opera, she has appeared with numerous symphony orchestras in concerts like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, among others.

She has collaborated with such conductors as Sir Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, James Levine, Kent Nagano, and Richard Bonynge. She has given solo recitals throughout Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.

In her wish to bring classical music to the younger generation, Sumi Jo started to venture into cross over by provided the voice of Veda Pierce in the HBO miniseries 'Mildred Pierce'.  She also sung the theme song for the the movie Nine Gates starring Johnny Depp and numerous Korean movies and television series.  A winner of the Grammy Award for her recordings, Sumi Jo has over 50 recordings to her credit, including ten solo albums for Erato, the French division of Warner Classics.  She was also a recipient of the following awards: International Puccini Award, Korean Award for Culture and Arts, “Artist for Peace” of UNESCO, Best Vocal Album by French Cultural Critics, the Best Selling Album of the Year award by British Classic and the Order of Culture Merit of South Korea to name a few.

The net proceeds from this event will be coursed through Tanging Yaman Foundation of Manoling Francisco, S.J., of Ateneo de Manila University to reach the communities devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

Sumi Jo in Manila is presented by Cultural Arts Events Organizer (CAEO) in partnership with the Korean Cultural Center, Edsa Shangri-la Hotel Manila, Lyric Piano, DZFE.FM The Master's Touch and BusinessWorld.

Ticket prices:
P5000 Orchestra Premiere
P3000 Orchestra Center
P2500 Orchestra Left
P2000 Orchestra Right
P1500 Balcony Center/Left
P1000 Balcony Right

For inquiries:
CAEO 782-7164, 750-0768, (0918) 347-3027, (0920) 954-0053
SM Ticket Outlets 470-2222, www.smtickets.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

US based trumpeter Raymond de Leon performs at CCP’s Special Concert Series

Trumpeter Raymond de Leon

January 29, 2014, 7:30 PM Performance
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
January 30-31, 2014, 1:30 & 3:30 PM Workshop/Masterclass
Silangan Hall
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

Raymond de Leon, trumpet
Raul Sunico, piano

Oskar Böhme Trumpet Concerto in F minor, Op. 18
Jean-Baptiste Arban Variations on a Theme from Bellini’s Norma
Jeno Hubay Scènes de la Csárda No.4 Hejre Kati, Op.32
Vladimir Peskin Trumpet Concerto No. 1 in C minor
Camille Saint-Saëns Le Cyne 
Vittorio Monti Csárdás

Award winning trumpet player Raymond de Leon had a successful performance as the featured guest of the PPO during their De Leon and Arutiunian concert back in 2012. De Leon now returns for a solo concert this time, as one of the featured artists of the CCP Special Concert Series. The concert, originally scheduled for last September 2013, will now happen on January 29, 2014, 7:30 PM at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

De Leon will be performing Oskar Böhme’s Trumpet Concerto in F minor, Op. 18, Jean-Baptiste Arban’s Variations on a Theme from Bellini’s Norma, Jeno Hubay’s Scènes de la Csárda No.4 Hejre Kati, Op.32, Vladimir Peskin’s Trumpet Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Le Cyne , and Vittorio Monti’s Csárdás. Accompanying him in this concert is pianist Raul Sunico.

After the concert, on January 30 and 31, Raymond will give a trumpet masterclass at 1:30 PM and workshop at 3:30 PM at the CCP’s Silangan Hall. Participants are requested to come and bring their trumpets for the trumpet choir.

A three-time first prize winner of the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA), Raymond was a semi-finalist in the 1st Calvia International Trumpet Competition in Mallorca, Spain in 2003. He won Third Prize in the International Trumpet Guild Solo Trumpet Competition in New Jersey in 2006 and won First Prize in the Seattle Philharmonic Don Bushell Concerto Competition in 2011. This led to his debut with the Seattle Philharmonic on March 2012, playing the Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto. Raymond has performed and toured in Europe, U.S.A., and Asia with international orchestra players and competed in international music competitions.

He studied at the University of Santo Tomas where he became a recipient of the Benavidez Award, twice, for International Excellence in Music. He also worked as a recording artist with Global Recording Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Gerard Salonga.

He served and performed as a soloist in the U.S. Army with the 56th Army Band stationed at Joint Base Lewis - McChord in Washington. Raymond’s successful stint with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Arutiunian trumpet concerto as soloist of the fourth PPO season concert in December 2012 drew raves from the audience and critics.

Ticket prices:
P800 Orchestra Center
P600 Orchestra Side
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For performance inquiries:
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

For workshop inquiries:
CCP Artist Training Division 832-1125 local 1604/1605, ccp.artist.training@gmail.com

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Manila Symphony Orchestra celebrates 88 years in Classics concert

January 18, 2014, 8:00 PM
Francisco Santiago Hall
South Tower, BDO Corporate Center

Jayson Pagtakhan, oboe
Randolf Lopez, clarinet
Ariel Perez, bassoon
Celso de Leon, horn
Manila Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Molina, conductor

Franz Joseph Haydn Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. 1/88
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon, K. 297b
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21

The Manila Symphony Orchestra brings to a close their Color Your World 2013-2014 concert season with Classics: The MSO Turns 88 this January 18, 2014, 8:00 PM at the Francisco Santiago Hall, BDO Corporate Center in Makati.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra, celebrating their 88th year, will perform pieces from the classical era namely Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major, Hob. 1/88, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon, K. 297b, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21. The concert will also feature the orchestra’s own wind players, oboist Jayson Pagtakhan, clarinetist Randolf Lopez, bassoonist Ariel Perez, and horn player Celso De Leon Jr. as soloists for the Sinfonia Concertante. The MSO music director, Arturo Molina conducts the orchestra for this evening.

Conductor Arturo Molina

The Haydn piece to be played in this concert belongs to his latter symphonies and is also regarded as one of his finest. Beethoven’s symphony, on the other hand, is his first but the work already showed signs of how he would later revolutionize the form through his latter symphonies. I would recommend audience members to listen attentively during the two symphonies’ fourth movements. The Mozart piece is a controversial one for it’s still debated upon if this was indeed the composition of Mozart himself. But this should not be a cause to dismiss this work which does indeed sound like a Mozart composition. The inclusion of the horn along with the oboe, clarinet, and bassoon (and no flute) make for an interesting combination of solo instruments in this piece.

Ticket prices:
P1200 Orchestra
P600 Balcony
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
MSO 523-5712, (0916) 408-7549, info@manilasymphony.com
TicketWorld 891-9999

Friday, January 10, 2014

Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra performs most requested Four Seasons in January concert

Violinist Jonathan Livioco

January 17, 2014, 8:00 PM
Meralco Theater
Ortigas Avenue
Pasig City

Joanna Ruth Livioco, violin
Jonathan David Livioco, violin
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Antonio Vivaldi Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)
                      Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, La primavera (Spring)
                      Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, L'estate (Summer)
                      Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, L'autunno (Autumn)
                      Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, L'inverno (Winter)
Antonín Dvořák Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, B. 178, From the New World

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes 2014 with a concert billed as The Four Seasons happening this January 17, 2014, 8:00 PM at the Meralco Theater. The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi is the most requested piece according to the orchestra’s principal conductor and music director Olivier Ochanine.

Violinist Ruth Livioco

Sharing solo violin duties for this piece are Joanna Ruth Livioco and Jonathan David Livioco. Ruth is currently the Assistant Concertmaster of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra while her brother Jonathan is the Concertmaster of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. Also included in the lineup for this evening is the very popular Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, B. 178 by Antonín Dvořák. This piece, also known as From the New World Symphony features probably the most popular English horn part ever written.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra

Ruth Livioco’s exposure in music started when she studied playing the piano (at age 6) and the violin (at age 10) through the Extension Program of the College of Music of the University of the Philippines. She pursued BM Violin degree at the College of Music, University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Prof. Arturo Molina where she earned the UP Extension Program Scholarship. A consistent College/University Scholar, she graduated cum laude in 2009 and was inducted to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. As a violinist, she has performed both as soloist, chamber, and orchestra musician both in the Philippines and abroad playing at an early age with the Metro Manila Community Orchestra (2000-2002), the Manila Symphony Orchestra (2002-2012), the Asian Youth Orchestra -- 6 week music camp and Asian concert tour (2010 and 2011), and with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (2012-present). Ruth was also featured soloist in Paco Park concert series (2009). Ruth won 3rd place, Violin Category C, in the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in 2008. She has undergone workshops and masterclasses such as the NAMCYA Special Summer Camp under Mr. Coke Bolipata (2001), UP Extension Program Summer Workshop under Prof. Sergio Esmilla, Jr. (2002), and the Starling-DeLay Symposium in Juilliard School (2003) among others.

Conductor Olivier Ochanine

Jonathan started playing the violin at the age of 8, at the Extension Program of the UP College of Music under Ferizal Midoro. He went on to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance, cum laude, also in UP, under Prof. Arturo Molina. Jonathan, commonly known as Jondee, has also participated in several music festivals and competitions, both here and abroad. Among these include the Asian Youth Orchestra, where he served as the 2nd Violin Principal in 2009, the Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies as a participant, and the NAMCYA Special Summer Camp in 2001, where he took violin lessons with Prof. Sergio Esmilla. In 2008 and 2011, Jonathan was a prize winner in the Violin Category of the National Music Competition for Young Artists. Prior to joining the ABS-CBN Philharmonic, Jonathan was the 2nd Violin Principal with Manila Symphony Orchestra. Currently, aside from his orchestra performances and some teaching duties, he continues his violin studies under the tutelage of esteemed Filipino Violinist, Joseph Esmilla.  

Ticket prices:
P1500 Orchestra Center/Loge Center
P1200 Orchestra Side/Loge Side
P500 Balcony
-50% student discount
-20% senior citizen discount

For inquiries:
CCP Marketing Department 832-1125 local 1806
CCP Box Office 832-3704
TicketWorld 891-9999

Monday, January 06, 2014

Rivalry stages 3rd round at the CCP

January 17, 2014, 8:00 PM
January 18, 2014, 3:00 & 8:00 PM
January 19, 2014, 3:00 PM
Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)
CCP Complex
Pasay, Metro Manila

The 4th Wall Theater Company (T4 Theater) takes the third round of the musical Rivalry over to the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) for a limited one weekend run this January 17-19, 2014.

Rivalry, the award winning original Filipino musical centers on the rivalries between friends, cousins, parents, and between Ateneo and La Salle basketball teams. Rivalry at CCP features Athena Tibi, Fred Lo, Red Concepcion, OJ Mariano, Juliene Mendoza, Pinky Marquez, Raymund Concepcion, Sheila Francisco and Noel Trinidad, among other performers.  The story revolves around two families, set in the year 1968, when Ateneo and La Salle were still part of the NCAA with other schools such as Letran, San Beda, Mapua and Jose Rizal.

The 4th Wall Theater Company (also known as T4 Theater) is a Philippine theater group that encourages the creation and production of original, world-class Filipino musicals and plays that will appeal to a wider local theater audience.  In line with its vision, T4 has created, produced and performed two original musicals to date.  In 2009, T4 was commissioned to create and produce an original musical called 100: Insular Life’s Musical Journey in C Major, for the centennial celebration of the Insular Life Assurance Corporation. The result was a highly entertaining piece of theater which won 2 awards in the Philippine Quill Creative Awards. This was followed with Rivalry: Ateneo-La Salle The Musical, a critically acclaimed show that ran for 38 performances in 2012, with 16 additional shows in 2013, both at the Meralco Theater.  The musical then garnered awards from Aliw as Best Musical Director (Ed Gatchalian), Best Stage Direction (Jaime del Mundo), and from BroadwayWorld as Best Music (Ed Gatchalian) for an original Filipino musical.

Ticket prices:
P1200 Orchestra Center
P800 Orchestra Side

For inquiries:
CCP Production Management Services Division 832-1125 local 1606-1607

Saturday, January 04, 2014

PPO III: Reshef Plays Schumann

Pianist Yossi Reshef

Yossi Reshef, piano
Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
Olivier Ochanine, conductor

Ralph Vaughan Williams
     Overture from The Wasps
     Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor
Richard Strauss Don Juan, Op. 20
Robert Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

A moment of respite was delivered when the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, its principal conductor and music director Olivier Ochanine, and guest artist, Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef performed at a concert less than a week after the devastating super typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas region at the center of the Philippines. This concert, billed as Reshef Plays Schumann, was co-presented by the Embassy of Israel and was held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

Conductor Olivier Ochanine and Madame Eti Bar-On

Ambassador Menashe Bar-On was not present during the concert for he was in Cebu overseeing the mobile hospital and team of medical personnel that flew in from Israel. Graciously acting as the host was his spouse, Madame Eti Bar-On who warmly welcomed the Embassy’s guests at the lobby prior to the actual performance.

The concert opened with a couple of pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams, namely Overture from the Wasps and Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor. Vaughan Williams’ music is abundant with English folk tunes and these two pieces are no exception. These two pieces weren’t part of the original lineup for this evening but I am pleased that they made the change. Orchestras in here rarely play Vaughan Williams’ works and although these two pieces don’t appeal that much to me, it gives me hope that someday, my preferred Vaughan Williams piece will be played soon.

Next to be performed was Richard Strauss’ Don Juan, Op. 20, a tone poem that really captures the audience’s attention right from the start. The orchestra, led by Ochanine, was able to convey the majesty and tenderness that it was not that difficult for the audience to be moved despite not knowing a word from the source material which is Nicolaus Lenau’s poem Don Juan. I noticed also that this was the orchestra’s third symphonic poem in as many concerts.

Diether Ocampo, Michelle Barrera and Neelesh Sajnani

After the intermission, it was time for pianist Yossi Reshef to perform Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. One of the most enduring piano concertos, this work was composed for Clara Schumann, Robert’s wife and one of the leading pianists at the time. This piece isn’t truly virtuosic as there aren’t really that much fireworks set out to impress the audience. It’s more lyrical, tender and romantic. What made this piece very interesting for me is that this has become Clara Schumann’s signature piece. And when one learns about the romance between Robert and Clara, her father’s objections to the affair, Robert’s sad fate and Johannes Brahms entering the picture later on, all of this adds up to one truly intriguing story and the music becomes more fascinating than ever. Despite an off moment during the first movement when he and the orchestra weren’t in sync, Reshef performed the concerto in the usual contained manner, not letting the emotions get out of hand. For an encore, Reshef played the Allegretto from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 which is also referred to as The Tempest.

Diether and Michelle explain sungka to Yossi

I was pleased to see Diether Ocampo watch the concert along with his non-showbiz girlfriend Michelle Barrera. The two clearly enjoyed watching and surprisingly, stayed on during the meet and greet at the lobby. Michelle even presented Yossi Reshef a sungka and amusingly explained to him how this popular Philippine game works.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Special Concert Series II: Aimee Mina-dela Cruz

Percussionist/marimbist Aimee Mina-dela Cruz

Aimee Mina-dela Cruz, marimba/percussion
Fe Marsha V. Nicolas, piano
Mikaela Natasha Janelle Ley, marimba
Leodivino Roque, percussion
Gomer Giron, percussion
Joy Allan dela Cruz, viola

Pablo de Sarasate Carmen Fantasy
Johann Sebastian Bach Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043, I. Vivace
Nebojsa Zivkovic Trio per Uno, I. Meccanico
Eugene Levitas Concerto for Percussion
Willy Cruz Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas
Eric Ewazen Concerto for Marimba

Music lovers had to wait a lot longer for the next installment of the Special Concert Series at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino. The postponement of Raymond De Leon’s concert to January 2014 meant that marimbist/percussionist Aimee Mina-dela Cruz’ performance eventually became the second, instead of the third and last of the series.

One of the percussionists of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Aimee Mina-dela Cruz is seen regularly during the orchestra’s subscription concert series playing whatever percussion instruments the concert pieces require. She also gets featured playing the marimba during PhilBanda events. But this was the first time, as far as I can recall, that she headlined a concert. I initially thought that she would just be performing with only the marimba. But in a pleasant surprise, she brought out almost the whole percussion arsenal for this concert.

She started out with a familiar show piece, Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, arranged for marimba and piano, wherein she was accompanied by pianist Fe Marsha Nicolas. The next number was the Vivace from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043 that was transcribed for two marimbas this time with young Mikaela Natasha Janelle Ley joining Aimee on stage. The stagehands then got busy to remove the marimba and arrange the drums, cymbals and other percussion instruments for the next piece, the Meccanico of Nebojsa Zivkovic Trio per Uno. Aimee was joined by Leodivino Roque and Gomer Giron for this dynamic and crowd pleasing number. This piece I think could probably sway a lot of youngsters to try out percussion much to the dismay of their parents who want peace and quiet. The stagehands got even busier as they set up almost all percussion instruments with the exception of a tam-tam (gong) for Eugene Levitas’ Concerto for Percussion. This piece was indeed a discovery for me for I’ve never seen nor heard something like this. Not only was it a delight to hear the various textures (especially during the combinations) brought about by the various instruments, but it was amazing to see the percussionist go through them with complete awareness of the instruments’ placement. I for sure would be scrambling trying to figure out where each instrument was and would possibly miss a few measures due to confusion.

Aimee Mine-dela Cruz and violist Joy Allan dela Cruz

The second half started with a familiar, mainstream piece which was Willy Cruz’ Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas. Aimee, now back at the marimba, was joined by her husband, violist Joy Allan dela Cruz in this romantic duet that even had some members of the audience wishing for some on stage display of affection at the end. The last piece for the night was Eric Ewazen’s Concerto for Marimba that showed Aimee’s mastery of the marimba. There was a brief tense moment during the third movement when her mallets broke right after a passage that required striking the marimba keys with the handles of the mallets instead of the heads. Fortunately, she had some spares nearby and she was able to grab a couple of them and resumed playing without missing a beat. For her encore, she performed Vittorio Monti’s Csárdás which is one of her regularly played solo pieces and always a crowd favorite.

Aimee then had a percussion workshop held at the CCP Main Theater Lobby a few days after the concert but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check that one out. Percussionists have always received a lot of flak that what they’re playing isn’t really music but just noise. But Aimee Mina-dela Cruz proved otherwise with this concert that gave me an earful of the various percussion instruments out there and also showed me how exciting a marimba is as a solo instrument.
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