Pianist Aries Caces stunned his listeners in a recent concert presented by the University of the Philippines College of Music at the UP Abelardo Hall.
The concert, said dean Jose Buenconsejo, was a tribute to Filipino performing artists who had earned recognition abroad.
Caces played a balanced program that included works from Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Interpreting the first composer to the last, he showed a remarkably deep familiarity with the appropriate tonal timbre of the various works’ stylistic nuances. His brand of intelligent pianism ensured full and gratifying listening.
In Bach’s “Italian Concerto in F,” Caces carved out singing lines that relied mostly on hand legato. This was most appreciated in the second slow movement where he carved out suave, continuous singing lines. He delivered the entire piece with a well-controlled, fascinating rhythmic drive.
The pairing of the related works of Mozart, the “Fantasie in C minor” and “Sonata in C minor,” had a tremendous aural effect that fully engaged the audience.
No doubt, Caces was in his best element here and one thought his playing of these pieces was the highlight of the concert.
His tones were elegantly carved out. At once his departure from the tonal timbre associated with the Bach piece was noticed. The tones were projected dynamically, and ensured easy discernment of nuances and colors to, for instance, appreciate tonal changes in the improvisatory “Fantasie.”
The singing tone was fully engaged, best appreciated in the second movement of the sonata. Caces’ playing sharply contrasted the dramatic impulse of the first and third movements. He rounded his tones brilliantly that brought out the lushness of the piece.
Deeply connected with the pieces, he played with gusto and ended the piece with dramatic flair. He easily emerged as a Mozart specialist, treating Mozart’s music with warm disposition expressed not in a coy or subdued manner, but in a brilliant style.
His musicality was unmistakably biting. It proceeded from a keen understanding of the stylistic nuance of the piece over sheer intuition.
More singing, this time from the left hand alone, was heard in one of his local mentor’s composition, Bernardino Custodio’s “Vision: Nocturne for the Left Hand.” It served as a breather, played after Chopin’s demanding “Fantasie in F minor” that opened the second part.
Virtually a tour de force, Caces unleashed more power in the gigantic “Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor” by Rachmaninoff. Almost played continually, the pianist surged through the work with a broad sweep.
He was fiery and feisty. He summoned technical prowess to the hilt as he equally conveyed engaging musicality. He carved out chords and octaves loudly without banging the piano as well as etched fleeting syncopations.
Above all, he avoided pounding the piano as a percussive instrument (as in the third movement), and dealt rather with the deep emotive content of the piece poignantly expressed in the second movement. Here he brought out the contemplative, almost elegiac mood complete with an eloquently playing of the bell-like tones.
At the end, the audience gave Caces a standing ovation. He encored Schumann-Liszt’s “Widmung,” which he played with a gracious singing lyricism.