A new Cebu City-based symphony orchestra was recently born with the launching of the Visayas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Korean conductor Juliet Kim at the Marcelo Fernan Cebu Press Center.
The launching program opened with the first movement from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and closed with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor with pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria as soloist.
The first movement from the Mozart symphony and the two movements from the Mendelssohn concerto revealed the dynamic conducting prowess of Kim and brought out the best from Santamaria and the orchestra (composed mostly of alumni of the Cebu youth orchestra founded by the Salvador and Pilar Sala Foundation).
The audience responded with a standing ovation led by Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Almendras Magpale. Also present in the concert were Korean Consul General Lee Ki-Seog and Consul Park.
The euphoric reception was a good sign that the female conductor would do excellent work as the first artistic director of the Visayas Symphony Orchestra.
The Mozart symphony revealed Kim’s musical affinity with the composer, and she drew the best from the musicians, who responded with such vigor and sensitivity.
Even Strauss’s very familiar “Emperor Waltz” received fresh reading. It was to the conductor’s credit that she avoided the mushy side of the piece and made it a brand-new sparkling piece with its familiar rhythm intact.
The orchestra also performed a few Visayan favorites such as Nitoy Gonzales’ “Usahay” and Ben Zubiri’s “Matud Nila,” which drew ecstatic response from the audience.
Brilliant was the rendition of the tango piece from the film “Scent of a Woman,” and ending the first part with a vigorous reading of the music of Klaus Badelt from another movie, “Pirates of the Carribean.”
Pièce de résistance
But the night’s pièce de résistance was no doubt the second and third movements from Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor with pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria as soloist.
That was a taut and peerless reading of the second movement followed by a razor-sharp finale, with both the conductor and soloist showing awesome rapport. It ended with a rousing standing ovation, which merited an encore—a repeat of the last movement.
The piano (courtesy of Lyric Piano) had palpable brilliance and the venue’s acoustics was excellent. It was a perfect night of orchestral music rendered by a group under concertmaster Reynaldo Abellana.
Founded in October 2014, the newly launched Visayas Symphony Orchestra is, indeed, worthy of support from both the public and private sectors.