Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Clarion Chamber Ensemble ventures into bold, brash and beautiful music territory

Pianist Hyun Joo Lee and flutist David Jerome Johnson

Clarion Chamber Ensemble
     David Jerome Johnson, flute
     Hyun Joo Lee, piano
     Jayson Rivera, clarinet
     Dino Decena, violin
     Gerry Gonzales, cello
     Joy Allan dela Cruz, viola
     Reynato Resurreccion, oboe
     Ariel Sta. Ana, clarinet
     Noel Singcuenco, bassoon
     Jay-Ar Mesa, horn
     Ma. Lica Uson, violin
     Glober Calambro, trumpet
     Rommel Cruz, double bass

Paul Hindemith
     Septet 1948
Dmitri Shostakovich
     Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8
Joseph Reinberger
     Nonet in E flat major, Op. 139
Astor Piazzolla
     Verano porteño

The chamber music performances for 2015 kicked off as the Clarion Chamber Ensemble presented The Bold, The Brash and The Beautiful at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater).

The concert, hosted by Bert Robledo started with a bold statement from Paul Hindemith’s Septet 1948 that was played by flutist David Jerome Johnson, oboist Reynato Resurreccion, clarinetist Ariel Sta. Ana, bassoonist Noel Singcuenco, horn player Jay-Ar Mesa, trumpeter Glober Calambro and bass clarinetist Jayson Rivera. The Hindemith piece was indeed an unusual and a bold choice for an opener as it was at times atonal and is curiously structured. The piece featured a musical palindrome in the second and fourth movement but it was almost impossible to figure that out in just the first listening. I wasn't surprised when some members of the audience didn't warm up to this opener at all.

But I really warmed up to the next one which was Dmitri Shostakovich's Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8 which was the brash portion of the concert. This single movement composition was played by pianist Hyun Joo Lee, violinist Dino Decena and cellist Gerry Gonzales. An early composition created when Shostakovich was still a student, this trio is varies in pace and mood greatly while sounding at times Romantic, Impressionistic and even cinematic. Although it had some of the grotesque that characterizes his latter works, the trio wasn't quite the brash Shostakovich music that caused him much trouble with the Soviet authorities. Honestly, I would've preferred if the ensemble chose to perform the darker and the more poignant second trio instead. But it still pleased me nonetheless to have seen a performance of any Shostakovich chamber music which is rarely performed here.

The ensemble left the 20th century atonal and dissonant harmonies of the first two pieces and stepped back in time to perform Joseph Rheinberger's Nonet in E flat major, Op. 139 with violinist Dino Decena, violist Joy Allan dela Cruz, cellist Gerry Gonzales, double bassist Rommel Cruz, flutist David Jerome Johnson, oboist Reynato Resurreccion, clarinetist Ariel Sta. Ana, bassoonist Noel Singcuenco, and horn player Jay-Ar Mesa. The piece, composed by Rheinberger who is known for his works for the organ, is basically a four movement symphony for nine musicians. With more pleasant melodies, this was indeed the beautiful part of the concert. While the ensemble was playing, I remembered my horrible experience at the recent Pasinaya when they were playing the first movement of this piece and a toddler right behind me was making a lot of noise. Thank goodness that the toddler was not present during this concert and I was able to enjoy the performance of this piece without any incident.

For the finale, the entire ensemble (sans trumpeter Calambro) along with guest artists violinist Ma. Angelica Uson and saxophonist Jayson Rivera performed Astor Piazzolla’s Verano porteño. Showing flair and swagger with all the male musicians wearing hats (with Singcuenco wearing a graduate cap of all things), this piece combining the bold, the brash and the beautiful was definitely a crowd pleaser. During the performance, I immediately wondered if Piazzolla actually wrote an arrangement of this piece specifically for that configuration of instruments. I found out right after the concert from David Jerome Johnson that he actually had Francesco Venerucci a pianist and composer from Italy, do a special arrangement of this piece for the ensemble. And that Clarion Chamber Ensemble already availed of his arrangement services a handful of times before.

I initially didn't like chamber music since I prefer the grand music that was played by symphony orchestras. But as I got older, I learned to appreciate the more intimate works by composers that I like and eventually wondered if I would ever see a live performances of said pieces. Thank goodness that the Clarion Chamber Ensemble is here since 2001 and that they had made it their mission to do regular concerts featuring music that aren't regularly performed in here.

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