Swiss cellist Thomas Demenga, who performs in Manila on Oct. 10 with Filipino pianist Charisse Dumlao, has seen the two legendary cellists who performed in Manila before him.
In the ’70s, legendary French cellist Pierre Fournier performed in Manila with the CCP Philharmonic (now Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra or PPO) while in the early ’80s, the great cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich was soloist in the Dvorak concerto with the PPO under Oscar Yatco.
Demenga told the Inquirer before flying to Manila from Bern, Switzerland: “I heard Fournier for the first and only time in my home town Bern, Switzerland when I was a young boy of maybe 10 years. Later I heard his recordings—an incredible noble and stylish artist! Today I believe that his Lalo cello concerto is still the best recording ever made!”
He also studied with Rostropovich in Basel for about six weeks when he gave his only master class in Europe. “Although we had a great pianist who accompanied all the 40 cellists in this master class, Rostropovich would also sit at a grand piano and proved that he knew the whole cello repertoire by heart including pieces like the orchestra part of the Sinfonia Concertante by Prokofiev.”
It was another coincidence that Demenga met Cecile Licad used to live in Basel, Switzerland, with cellist Antonio Meneses. “When Cecile and Antonio got married, they lived in Basel where I still teach. We were very good friends then. I met them earlier at Gidon Kremer’s festival in Lockenhaus where Cecile and I played Schubert’s “Arpeggione” sonata. We lost contact when she moved back to New York.”
Pianist Dumlao who hails from Tacloban, Leyte, first saw Demenga perform Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Sonata for Cello. She remembered it was a very intense experience as he immersed the audience into different colors of sound. “Although modern music is not always easy to appreciate, Demenga has a way of involving his audience. You don’t need to understand the music if you allow yourself to be carried away by his performance and of course his very presence.”
He feels very honored that he will follow the trail of Fournier and Rostropovich in his coming Oct. 10 Manila concert with Dumlao. “I’m curious to see a country and a culture I’ve never seen before, and having the chance to perform in Manila with a Filipino pianist is very exciting.”
For his Manila concert, Demenga will use his Andrea Guarneri 1669 Cello named “The Soyer.” Its previous owner is David Soyer, founding member of the famous Guarneri Quartet.
The recital program at the Carlos P. Romulo Hall (RCBC) includes Brahms’ “Sonata in E minor, Opus 38,” Faure’s “Après un Rêve,” Liszt’s “La Lugubre Gondola,” Dvorak’s “Waldesruh” and Rondo in G minor” and Schubert’s “Sonata in A minor (Arpeggione).”
Apart from the Oct. 10 concert, Demenga will also conduct a masterclass on Oct. 8. They will also be heard at the Casa San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales, on Oct. 13. On Oct. 14, pianist Dumlao will be guest lecturer in Tacloban in a lecture series called “Pasundayag: Teaching and Enhancing Cultural Education in Eastern Visayas.”
The Oct. 14 lecture will be capped by a mini-concert featuring flutist Raymond Sarreal at 2 p.m. The program: “Concertino” by Chaminade, “Undine Sonata” by Reinecke and “Kataka-taka for Flute and Piano.” —CONTRIBUTED