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Pianist Archie Panganiban gives refreshing comeback performance

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HIS PLAYING towers above the rather dull piano.

It has been a while since I last heard pianist Jose Artemio “Archie” C. Panganiban III, one of the country’s promising pianists. His long absence in Manila’s concert stage has had to do with the fact that he had to earn graduate studies.

He earned two master’s degrees in Operations Research and Engineering Economic Systems and a doctorate in Engineering Economic Systems and Operations Research from one of the US leading institutions,  Stanford University.

This he pursued after his stellar piano study at the State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, summa cum laude, under the tutelage of the late pedagogue Jose Ma. “Joey” Contreras. His background in engineering was provided by  Ateneo de Manila University, where he earned his bachelor’s in Management Engineering.

Indeed, it is rare to find a performing artist who can blend with ease the opposite sides of the brain.

Taking timeout from his busy directorship schedule at the Citigroup in New York City, Panganiban recently gave a marvelous performance that combined both solo piano renditions and collaboration with the Manila Symphony Orchestra, in Rachmaninov’s well-loved piano concerto, the C minor, with  Arturo Molina conducting, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC, Makati City.

Asean jurists and lawyers

The occasion was the 33rd foundation celebration of the Asean Law Association (Ala) Philippines which was established in 1981. The concert was attended primarily by the legal luminaries of the Philippines, such as former Defense Secretary Avelino V. Cruz, the president of Ala Philippines; Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno; and former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, Archie’s dad.

The latter, obviously very proud of his son, sat beside  H. M. Hatti Ali, Chief Justice of Indonesia and president of the Asean Law Association.

To start the program, the Supreme Court Choir sang the National Anthem; and the Ala Philippines Anthem with music  composed by Cruz, and lyrics written by Court of Appeals Justice Magdangal M. de Leon.

Both come from a musical family. The former is the son of a famous tenor, the late Octavio Cruz, who hailed from Pasig; and the latter is the son of the late composer and National Artist for Music Felipe P. de Leon Sr.

It was refreshing to hear Archie again. The touch was familiar, and the sound articulate and fresh. Despite the rather dull piano that should provide tonal insecurity to any pianist, Panganiban’s playing towered, affording the audience an absorbing moment of listening.

His programming of the solo piano was intelligently done. It underscored lyricism and solid technical grounding.

Archie performed three Liszt pieces: the two brief etudes, “Waldesrauschen” and “Gnomenreigen”; and the more substantial “Spanish Rhapsody,” spiced with a Chopin Nocturne, the C Minor, Op. 48, No.1.

The last piece prefaced the Liszt pieces. It is scored with subtle and fine lyricism and characteristic Lisztian octaves which the pianist impressively rendered.

In top form

Archie was in top form in the “Spanish Rhapsody.” He ably delineated all nuances while at the same time keeping the varied undulations set by popular Spanish melodies, notably the fandango and the jota. Archie rhapsodized the piece, so to speak, not in the familiar bombastic manner, but in a sublime way that kept the noble, subtle disposition Liszt had infused the work with.

In the collaborative work, Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto, Archie showed more of his ebullient touch. In a singing manner, he rendered the slow second movement with elan.

Here, as in the other two movements, Archie was in rapport with the orchestra, at times collaborating some instruments or being collaborated with. He managed to rein in the piano and came off with his legato tones. The dialogic discourse, between him and the orchestra, was simply fantastic!

The concerto is made more popular by Tin Pan Alley adaptations of the classical work, such as “All by Myself” from the second movement, and “Full Moon and Empty Heart” from the last third movement.

It is hoped Archie could take more time off from his hectic schedule to give concerts in Manila. He, definitely, has more to share!

Upcoming soprano

Ma. Lara Maigue showed promise as an upcoming soprano. Indeed, quite a potential, she impressed her listeners with the renditions of “Sa Kabukiran” by M. Velez and “Mutya ng Pasig” by N. Abelardo and an aria, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro.”

Before the rendition, the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) played a rousing overture,  Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville,” to the delight of the audience.

The MSO, under Molina, has made its strong presence by providing collaborative work with both upcoming and professional artists alike.


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