Violinist Saraza, PPO’s Nowak make for powerful tandem | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Saraza-Nowak Tandem
Saraza-Nowak Tandem
Saraza-Nowak Tandem
Saraza-Nowak Tandem

Violinist Diomedes Saraza Jr. forged a formidable tandem with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) in its closing concert for the current concert season, under the baton of Grzegorz Nowak, PPO’s principal conductor and music director. The concert was held at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit, Makati.

The youthful violinist, fresh from his performances in the United States, played two demanding pieces written in contrasting styles in the first part of the program.

National Artist for Music Lucrecia R. Kasilag’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” was the rousing opener. Written in the contemporary style, the violin concerto was premiered by the late Filipina violin virtuoso Carmencita Lozada with National Artist for Music Dr. Francisco Feliciano conducting the same orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the 1980s.

The piece opened the concert with a bang, so to speak, at once demonstrating Saraza’s utmost virtuosity to soar through the technical difficulties of the modern piece. Showcased likewise was the sterling capability of Maestro Nowak to bring out the essence of the piece, which he and the violinist both read for the first time.

Tight rapport

Rapport was tight between the youthful virtuoso and the orchestra under the authoritative command of the venerable maestro. Their tandem eloquently brought out what the concerto had exactly called for: the close collaborative unity between soloist and orchestra to bring out the chamber essence of this magnificent Kasilag three-movement work. The work was scored precisely for the soloist and orchestra to work harmoniously together, rather than the opposite—the orchestra just being an accompaniment ensemble to the violin soloist.

This was eloquently demonstrated in the lovely second movement, Adagio, where both orchestra and violinist carried an interesting, intelligent dialogue that highlighted the intimacy between the violin and the orchestra.

The cadenzas in the first (Moderato) and the third (Allegro) movements showcased the virtuosity of the solo violinist. New materials were introduced in the cadenza of the third movement that quoted Philippine tunes from “Bayan Ko,” “Magtanim ay Di Biro” and “Anak Dalita” to even the euphoric sounds associated with the jeepney!

Offstage, Saraza said these were his “additions,” a witty gesture that enhanced the flavor of the work. His inclusion of the Kasilag piece was his response to the conductor’s request for him to play a Philippine work for the violin—a commendable gesture on the part of Nowak—to enrich the program of the PPO with Philippine works.

Previously, Nowak had conducted National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro’s stirring tone poem “Lahing Kayumanggi” from memory as part of his selection process—with great success, as it earned him instant admiration from the audience. Expectedly, many more Philippine symphonic works will grace the future programs of the PPO.

Technical virtuosity

All the more the audience intently listened to the next, familiar violin piece, “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28,” written in the romantic vein by French composer Camille Saint-Saens.

Saraza rendered it absorbingly, in dynamic tandem with Nowak who conducted the PPO superbly. Saraza played with elan, showing both technical virtuosity and superb musicality. Rousing applause greeted the performance at the end.

Saraza and the orchestra then played Louie Ocampo’s “Kahit Isang Saglit,” arranged for the orchestra by Orlando de la Cruz. The piece was dedicated to Nedy Tantoco, the late patroness of the musical arts.

Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 5 in B flat major” completed the PPO’s program. Here, the PPO played with a commanding dispatch Schubert’s cheerful work. The symphonic sound the PPO carved out showed the elegant allure of Schubert’s classical work. There was no fanfare, simply an intricate symphonic web that calmed rather than excited the mind. Indeed, a soothing balm to the tired spirit.

The musicians played with gusto and biting sensitivity. On the podium, the venerable maestro wielded his baton with commanding authority, making the symphonic listening experience truly gratifying. One looks forward to PPO’s next concert season with excitement under the stewardship of Maestro Nowak. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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