Friday, February 19, 2016

An intimate evening with the Clarion Chamber Ensemble

Rachelle Gerodias, soprano
Byeong In-Park, baritone
Mariel Illusorio, piano
Juan Luis Muñoz, violin
Seung Yun Lee, piano
David Jerome Johnson, flute
Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, piano

Astor Piazzolla
     Grand Tango
Darius Milhaud
Maurice Ravel
     La flûte enchantée from Scheherazade
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
     Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni
     Cinque, dieci, venti from Le nozze di Figaro
Sergei Rachmaninoff
     Valse & Romance
Jacques Ibert
   Deux Interludes
George Gershwin
     Bess, you is my woman now from Porgy and Bess
Astor Piazzolla
Ruggero Leoncavallo
      Nedda!...Silvio! A quest' ora from I Pagliacci
Antonín Dvořák
     Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75
Franz Lehar
     Lippen Schweigen from Die lustige Witwe

Mike Velarde Jr.
     Minamahal Kita

My desire to watch chamber music performances had me rushing back to Metro Manila coming from Batangas City just to make it to the Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s most recent concert, entitled Let’s Get Intimate held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater.

I arrived a bit late and missed the first couple of numbers. I only managed to get into my seat just in time for pianists Seung Yun Lee and Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee’s to play Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche. A piece that holds a special meaning for me, their performance became a nostalgic trip down memory lane that brought a smile to my face.

Next up was a set of songs by the real life music couple, soprano Rachelle Gerodias and baritone Byeong-In Park. Accompanied by pianist Mariel Illusorio and flutist David Jerome Johnson, Rachelle’s rendition of La flûte enchantée highlighted the exoticism of Maurice Ravel’s Scheherazade. Byeong-In, bringing along his crew of violinist Juan Luis Muñoz and mandolin player Jayson Mangalino with him, showed some humor and charm with Deh, vieni alla finestra from Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The set ended with the duet Cinque, dieci, venti from Le nozze di Figaro. Not being familiar with the arias, I wasn’t able to get the narrative arc.

One of the highlights of the concert for me was Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Valse & Romance, a couple of pieces for 6 hands that had Seung Yun Lee, Hyun Joo “Julia” Lee, and Mariel Illusorio performing on just one piano. The different layers of the piece, played with such consistency was delightful to hear. And with the three of them so close together, it was piano playing at its most intimate. So fascinated was I with the Rachmaninoff pieces that I was reliving them even though the Deux Interludes by Muñoz, Johnson and Seung Yun Lee was being performed. Up to now, I couldn’t recall how the Jacques Ibert pieces were but I remember fondly the sounds of the Rachmaninoff.

While I wasn’t able to grasp fully their earlier songs, Rachelle and Byeong-In’s Bess, you is my woman now posed no problem for me and I was able to savor this favorite from George Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess. And when I thought that I completely missed the Astor Piazzolla’s tangos that started the show, there was still Oblivion performed by Muñoz, Johnson, Seung Yun Lee along with dancer PJ Rebullida. I found out later on that Rebullida also danced during the preceding tangos.

The latter part of the concert highlighted the real life couples, beginning with Rachelle and Byeong-In’s Nedda!...Silvio! A quest' ora from I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, yet another duet from an opera I haven’t encountered before. Finally, Illusorio and Muñoz performed together as a duo with Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 by Antonín Dvořák. In keeping with the title of the concert, the pieces were neither bombastic nor full of flair but were rather lyrical, sophisticated, and yes, intimate.

Everybody came back waltzing on stage becoming back up dancers to Rachelle and Byeong-In’s duet of Lippen Schweigen from Franz Lehar's Die lustige Witwe giving some merriment to the finale. For an encore, Rachelle and Byeong-In gave a tender rendition of Mike Velarde Jr.’s Minamahal Kita. I think that this was the first time I heard Byeong-In singing in Filipino.

In between the numbers, Joanna Ong Go gave some useful background info about the pieces and the love letters written by various personalities like Martha Graham, Robert Browning, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johnny Cash and even Elizabeth Taylor gave the concert more romantic flavor. Compared to Clarion Chamber Ensemble’s previous concerts, the Let's Get Intimate was of a lighter, feel good fare. There weren't any unusual instrument combinations and the spotlight was definitely on the two real life music couples.

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