The Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) returned to the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater last June 4 and produced a real grand—and rousing—season opening.
The Haydn D Major Cello Concerto No. 2 was a quiet but powerful opening, with cellist Wilfredo Pasamba making a grand statement in all the three movements. His first movement cadenza was tasteful and remarkably expressive.
On the whole, Pasamba hewed to the spirit of the concerto, described by a commentator as “a leisurely dialogue between cello and orchestra, rather like an esteemed guest dropping for afternoon tea and crumpets”—and made sure he did not call unnecessary attention to himself.
With Arturo Molina at the podium, the concerto was for the most part delightful. With his perfect rapport with Pasamba, the result was vintage Haydn at its most refined interpretation.
But MSO’s finest and most enthralling moment was the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. From its majestic opening featuring a funereal trumpet solo to the much-awaited adagieto and on to the hair-raising finale, the MSO under Molina created an unusual uproar.
The audience didn’t stop applauding until the orchestra gave them an encore: a fandanggo from Capriccio Espagnole by Rimsky Korsakov.
What role does a concertmaster play in these highly charged and well-received performances?
MSO concertmaster Gina Medina (who, with pianist Mary Anne Espina, created a sensation in the opening of the concert series in UP Balay Kalinaw a week earlier) said a good concertmaster must not only know his music very well but must also possess a high level of technical proficiency and artistic integrity.
“Since orchestral music-making is about combining talents of different musicians in interpreting a masterpiece,” Medina said, “a good concertmaster should be able to work well with the conductor. He should be able to execute what the conductor demands of the work at hand. There is a level of submission to the conductor that is needed in order to bring out the music successfully.
“Therefore, a person with a big ego will have a hard time being a concertmaster. Music-making is a relationship-oriented profession. As a leader, the concertmaster should be respectable. His level of playing should inspire and not intimidate the other members of the orchestra in order for them to perform with a high level of standard. He should be emotionally secure to accept corrections but must possess a strong character to make musical decisions in line with the conductor’s musical ideas or interpretation of the score.
“But in the end, it’s really about the music. Regardless of whether one is soloist or concertmaster, one needs to get along with the orchestra members and the conductor. Relationships are very important in music-making. There is harmony in music, when people making it get along.”
Medina and Espina
In an evening of Brahms, Kreisler, De Falla and Constancio de Guzman at the UP Balay Kalinaw, Medina and Espina were at their best as chamber musicians. The excellent acoustics of the venue made the audiences feel as though they were treated to a sensurround minus the irritating presence of a sound system.
Balay Kalinaw is one venue where one can truly re-appreciate music at its most natural setting. It’s homey and intimate.
You will find this out if you find time to watch pianist Oliver Salonga in his first solo recital at Balay Kalinaw on June 18, 6 p.m. Program includes Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 58 in C Major; Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12.; Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-Flat Major, Op. 110; and Liszt’s Apres une Lecture du Dante (Sonata Quasi Fantasia).
A gold medalist in the 2008 Joenju International Piano Competition in South Korea, Salonga was also a prizewinner of the 2004 Lynn Concerto Competition and two-time Grand Prize winner in piano at the 2003 and 2004 Madelyn Savarick Annual Scholarship Competition of the Center for the Arts in Boca Raton, Florida.
He had master classes with Cecile Licad, Sarah Davis Bueckner, Yoshikazu Nagai, Rebecca Penneys, Jon Nakamatsu, Jerome Lowenthal, Robert McDonald, John O’Connor and Philip Evans, in which he was given the highest commendation.
He graduated summa cum laude from Lynn University in Florida under the tutelage of Roberta Rust.
A semifinalist in the Tchaikovsky competition in Russia, cellist Pasamba will also debut at Balay Kalinaw. His program includes Barber, Debussy and Shostakovich sonatas in his July 8 Balay Kalinaw recital.
On July 22, baritone Andrew Fernando, mezzo soprano Clarissa Ocampo, flutist Christopher Oracion and Espina will be the main highlight of the Balay Kalinaw Series.