The venerable Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), a resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, kicks off the celebration of its 40th anniversary next year with a 2012-2013 concert season that opens on Sept. 21. Works to be played range from the 18th century (Handel) to the 21st century (Cayabyab).
This was announced at a recent press conference at the CCP. Among those who spoke were CCP president Raul Sunico; CCP vice president Chris Millado; and Olivier Ochanine, the PPO’s popular and personable music director.
During the press con, the PPO’s String Quintet led by concertmaster Nemesio Ibero performed Mozart’s well-loved “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”
The opening concert will be held at the Philamlife Auditorium in Manila. Succeeding concerts (Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Dec. 14, Feb. 22, March 22 and April 19) will be staged at the CCP.
On Sept. 21, Ochanine conducts Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Orchestra, Nielsen’s “Aladdin” Suite, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.
Speaking of this season’s works, with a reference to last season’s “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky, Ochnanine said, “music is not always beautiful and sweet but exciting, expressive, violent [Stravinsky]… a lot of dirt in it [Shotstakovich], relationship with government, a lot of undertones.”
He added: “Audiences are growing younger. The Filipino audience wants to learn, to expand [their knowledge]. The numbers are growing, slowly, surely.”
Millado paid tribute to PPO members: “They have a multi-dimensional character. They are not just musicians; they also teach. They are leaders in their own communities. Most of them have launched a program targeting young listeners, and have performed in nontraditional and underserved areas like Tagum City, Davao del Norte, and PGH [Philippine General Hospital].”
For the first time in a PPO press con, some of the musicians present were called upon to talk about their experiences with the orchestra.
Violinist Jorge Sababan said he played for two years in a cruise ship which toured Europe, the Carribean, Alaska and Hawaii.
“My salary was ten times what I earn with the PPO,” he revealed. “But after a while it became boring. I felt my classical training was being thrown away; my fingers were ‘ruined.’ Enough is enough. So I went back to the PPO.”
Cellist Ma. Victoria Molina-Chang said, “the PPO has been my home for 34 years and it is not boring because every concert is different.”
Young Joana Ruth Livioko, assistant concertmaster and a new hire, observed that “being with the PPO is very different from my college years. It is a continuous learning experience and is more fulfilling than [being like Lady Gaga].”
Another new member, youthful trombonist Ricson Poonin, shy and young, disarmed the gathering by speaking in Filipino. A Namcya winner and product of the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, he said he came from a family of fiesta musicians in San Pablo City, Laguna, and his father Ricardo was his inspiration.
He plans to stay with the PPO “hanggang tumanda ako [till I grow old].”
Guest artists for the 2012-2013 season include double-bass soloist Kurt Muroki; conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura; trumpeter Raymond de Leon; cellist Iñaki Etxepare; conductor Hermenigildo Ranera; tenor Arthur Espiritu; soprano Hyunah Yu; conductor Mark Gibson; violinist Gao Can; and the winner (to be announced) of the PPO Piano Concerto Competition.