One not-so-fine evening a year or so ago at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Laura Jackson, American guest conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, was fuming. It was almost time for the concert and many of the PPO musicians were nowhere in sight.
“Filipino time,” she no doubt muttered.
Then, just before 8 p.m, PPO members trooped in, dripping wet, lagging their instruments, and hurriedly changed into their suits. Unknown to the conductor, a storm was raging outside. The concert started on time.
It was “a defining moment” for Jackson, as she later wrote. From then on, she learned to love and appreciate the PPO and, doubtless, the rest of the country.
This “heartwarming” anecdote was recounted at a recent press conference at the CCP by Chris Millado, vice president and artistic director of the CCP, who expressed the hope that our lawmakers would also appreciate (as in increase the budget of) the PPO.
The PPO String Quartet played some engaging numbers during the presscon, which was called to announce the 29th concert season (2011-2012) of the orchestra, which has just returned from a triumphant tour of Beijing.
The season opens with “A Hero’s Life” on Sept. 9. The repertoire is Elgar’s Cello Concerto (to be performed by noted cellist Renato Lucas); Saint-Saens’ “Bacchanale” from “Samson and Delilah”; and Strauss’ “Einheldenleben.”
“The whole season is based on heroic endeavors,” declared music director Olivier Ochanine. “Most orchestras will find it difficult to play some of these pieces. There’s a contrabass part written like a violin. It’s really crazy stuff, riveting, exciting.”
Ochanine cited Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” which caused a riot when it was first performed in Paris in 1913, and Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 “Inextinguishable,” which “is impossible to play yet we will do it.”
Nielsen’s symphony will be performed on Jan. 20, while Stravinsky’s symphonic piece ends the season on April 20.
Ochanine said the repertoire was a mélange of works that had never been performed here and compositions requested by concert-goers, like the popular Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninoff (Dec. 16).
The music director said the PPO aimed to involve concert-goers from all walks of life, and lauded the organization’s marketing department for bringing in students who had filled the balcony seats of the CCP.
“We will be asking for new compositions from Filipino composers,” Ochanine shared. “We should be promoting Filipino artists as much as possible.”
Filipino soloists who will perform, apart from Lucas, include clarinetist Ariel Santa Ana (Oct. 7); pianist Ariel Dechosa (Dec. 16); and soprano Rachelle Gerodias (March 16).
Foreign guest artists include conductor Jae Joon Lee (Nov. 11); violinist Bui Cong Duy (Nov. 11); trombonist (Jan. 20); Takahiro Ono (Feb. 17); conductor James Judd and pianist Sofya Gulyak (April 20).