|Herminigildo Ranera conducts the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra|
After enduring the intense summer heat that characterized the month of April, the weather finally cooperated and cooled down as I made a trek to the mountains for the 5th edition of PPO Sunsets @ Makiling, a performance of light classics and pop music by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the Tanghalang Maria Makiling at the National Arts Center in Laguna.
But cooler still were the performances of the three promising and exceptional ladies namely trumpet player Rhoxene Octaviano, banduria player Nikki Zen Obmasca, and harpist Jane Banta, who were the featured soloists in this concert led by PPO’s Associate Conductor Herminigildo Ranera.
The opening piece, Franz von Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture, with its swaying melody and various changes of tempo, felt like as if the refreshing breeze in the mountain was swaying along with the music. I was amused when I heard collective whispers among the audience when they recognized the opening bars of the next piece. They were familiar with the music but probably weren’t aware before that it was the popular Molto allegro from Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Now on to the soloists’ performances starting with 14 year old trumpet player Rhoxene Octaviano who performed the showpiece Fantaisie and Variations on The Carnival of Venice by Jean-Baptiste Arban. I was surprised upon learning that Rhoxene hails from Malabon, a neighboring city of my hometown that has a deep marching band tradition. Showing promise in such a young age, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her continuing her trumpet studies in one of the leading music colleges here or even abroad in a few years.
Following her was 15 year old Nikki Zen Obmasca, who gave a hold your breath performance of Niccolò Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo transcribed for the banduria. This was the same piece that she performed at the NAMCYA winners’ concert last year and as expected, the audience gave her the same rousing applause after she seemingly played nonstop during the entire piece. Rhoxene and Nikki probably felt at home performing at the venue as both are currently students at the Philippine High School for the Arts.
Before performing, harpist Jane Banta had some brief words about her instrument nicely summed up in four words: Heavenly, Arpeggios, Rare and Pedals. During her lecture, she performed the cadenza that served as the introduction to Waltz of the Flowers from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. I wished that it actually led to the entire piece being performed since it would’ve been a definite crowd pleaser. But she presented the Andante-Allegro movement from George Frideric Handel’s Concerto in B-flat Major, Op. 4 No. 6, HWV 294 which is originally for the organ.
It is not every day that a harpist gets highlighted and Jane has gotten her fair share of exposure here since completing her Master of Music degree in Harp Performance at the State Univerity of New York last year. Catch more of her and the harp as she headlines the second installment of the Special Concert Series happening this August 29, 2018 at the CCP Little Theater.
The orchestra then performed a great variety of music ranging from Ryan Cayabyab’s arrangement of Jose Santos’ Dalagang Pilipina, Selections from Claude-Michel Schönberg Les Miserables, Gustav Holst’s encompassing Jupiter from The Planets, Op. 32 and an orchestral version of Johannes Brahms’ lively Hungarian Dance No. 6 in D Major, WoO1. Throughout this portion, I noticed a young girl wearing a bright pink skirt who could be no more than seven years old dancing to the music like she didn’t have a care in the world. I’d place my bet that she was probably the most involved audience member during the entire concert.
Most of the audience joined the little girl in grooving to the beat as the PPO turned to more popular fare for their encores namely Havana by Camila Cabello and Despacito by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee.
Attendance was a lot better this year owing to better weather but the cloudy skies blocked a clear view of the sunset. I hope that there will be a more efficient way to shuttle people out of the venue after the concert. There were jeepneys providing one way trips but their limited number meant that dozens of people still had to wait for them to come back to pick them up. I’m concerned since it’s not a comforting thought to get stuck and get forced to descend from Mt. Makiling by foot.