Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dichter Liebe Poet of Love

Once again, I find myself at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium at the UP Campus in Diliman for another show in line with the Sounds of August series. But it felt really odd to see the campus almost deserted since it was a holiday. But nonetheless, a number people still came to see the performance entitled Dichter Liebe: Poet of Love which is in celebration of Robert Schumann's bi-centennial year.

I was still somehow poisoned by the Baroque Overdose that I've had the week before, so I need to have the proper antidote which is Romantic music. And although I'm not that into Schumann in regards to Romantic music, I still gladly took it just to have a change of pace.

But compared to the performance a week before which went too long for me, this one was too short and went by so fast. Only three pieces were played and although they weren't short pieces, it was indeed a short programme. I know that Schumann had more works than what was played and I didn't know why they couldn't have included another piece to add more meat to the programme.

First to perform was clarinetist Hernan Manalastas accompanied by Prof. Augusto Espino on the piano and they played Fantasiestucke, Op. 73. I am not really familiar with the clarinet repertoire despite owning the instrument. I just tried to see if my breathing could match that of the clarinetist and it didn't as expected. It's usually the same result whenever I see a clarinet performance, I only get frustrated on how badly I play that instrument.

The next number in the programme was Frauenliebe und leben (A Woman's Love and Life) by soprano Prof. Gabriela Francisco accompanied by pianist Prof. Pia Margarita Balasico. I forgot to mention that I was surprised to see quite a handful of kids and teens in attendance and it was they whom I took note of while watching this particular piece. I could barely grasp the meaning of the songs since they were in German after all and only got clues by how the music sounded and by looking at her facial expressions. I could only wonder if the young ones in attendance were able to appreciate this number at all. By the end of this number, the woman had indeed lived and loved and had gone through all what life brought to the table.

The second half of the programme composed only of one piece and it was Andante und Variationen Op. 46 (for 2 pianos, 2 cello and french horn). For this piece, Prof. Balasico and Prof. Espino return to play the 2 pianos along with cellists Gerry Graham Gonzalez, Giuseppe Diestro and french horn player, Mahler Villanueva.

I've never heard this piece played before and I couldn't really react to it. Although I'm drawn to Romantic music, it is such a broad category with so many composers and works under it. Unfortunately, Schumann's body of work isn't something that gets through me compared to other Romantic composers. So as much as I wasn't able to fully appreciate this performance at all.

I did find it alarming that despite not liking Baroque music, I responded to it more than this night of Schumann's music. But they I concluded much later that the Baroque still contaminated my body and that I needed another change of pace to flush it out completely.

Baroque Overdose

When I saw the title of this show which is part of the Sounds of August series that was held at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium at the UP Campus in Diliman, I somehow braced myself for something that might test my limits. I am not the biggest fan of Baroque music and I didn't know how much of it I could take. So I wasn't sure if I could survive an overdose of this kind of music but there were a couple of things that caught my interest so I decided to check this out. Unfortunately, things didn't start well for me since the weather was really bad going to the venue.

So it's up to this Baroque music to brighten up my mood which was quite a monumental task. The night started with a Sonata for Oboe and Basso Continuo by J.B. Roilette performed by Franz Ramirez on the oboe with Alejandro Consolacion on the Basso Continuo. If memory serves me correctly, the Basso consisted of an organ and a cellist for this number. This was quite a short sonata which is normal for music in this era.

But despite this short sonata, the whole show was quite long since following this number was tenor, Sheen Leem Sanchez singing Athalia by George Frideric Handel, Domine Deus by Antonio Vivaldi and Strike the Viol by Henry Purcell. And after this, it was soprano Sherla Najera's turn with Let the Bright Seraphim Come unto Him and Rejoice Greatly, Oh Daughter of Zion by Handel. Before the show started, it was announced that there would be changes in the programme order but I wasn't able to take note what they were since I wouldn't even notice since I wasn't really familiar with all these Baroque pieces.

I think that I've had my Baroque endurance limit tested when this was over but there was still the second half of the programme. Clark Louise Crisostomo on the trumpet performed Te Deum by Charpentier and again, it was all over before I knew it. Next was baritone Jonaf del Fiero with Ich Habe Genug by Johann Sebastian Bach. And then came next one of the reasons why I came to watch: counter tenor Mark Anthony Carpio. He sang a bunch of Vivaldi's works namely Nissi Dominus, Gloria Patri, Et in Secula Seculuria and Amen. I haven't seen nor heard a counter tenor sing live before (only in videos) and this one I really had to see.

Finally, the last piece of the night was Handel's Organ Concerto in F Major, HWV 292, Op. 4 No. 4 featuring organist Alejandro Consolacion who was quite busy accompanying the other performers throughout the evening. And for this number, he had with him the Festival Chamber Ensemble and also the four vocalists who performed earlier. It was quite interesting to note that the baritone sang the bass part and the counter tenor doing the alto during this concerto.

It was indeed a long performance and despite some of the pieces being short it was still a long night for me. It was too much Baroque for me that the Romantic side of me was already rebelling. But I was glad to be able to watch since it was still a learning experience for me musically.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Voice to the World

I always find pleasure watching performances at the Far Eastern University's auditorium despite its less than ideal acoustics. The director of the President's Committee on Culture, Martin Lopez, is an excellent host and I've also become friends with some of the students who serve as ushers during these events. So when it was announced that there will be another show in line with the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the PCC, I immediately checked if I was free on that date. Fortunately, my schedule permitted me to watch the group performing on that date: The Synergy Show Choir.

The choir is from Salt Lake City, Utah in the USA and they are made up of around 20 performers raning from ages 17-26 years old which is in line with the PCC's celebration theme of focusing on the youth. So it was no longer a surprise that an overwhelming majority of the audience present were also young and it somehow made me feel old.

And I did feel old when I watched the group's performance. They started with a song called We Are Here to Change the World! which could be an original song meant for the group. And by this number alone, I already formed my impression of the group. They combined singing with vigorous dancing which was quite technical especially for the girls in the group. The guys in the group weren't really good dancers but they were very much capable of doing complicated lifts with the some of the girls.

And there was indeed more dancing since they also did a Heal the World Medley which is a number made up of Michael Jackson songs. They also did a Hairspray Medley and The Phantom Medley which is basically a medley of songs from various musicals. Most of the songs were upbeat which meant that there was indeed more dancing involved.

All this dancing and lifting meant that the vocals had to suffer a bit. Their music included backup vocals for the chorus parts but the soloists did sing live and passing the microphone from one soloist to the other was somehow part of the choreography. And it was nice that every member of the group had a solo vocal part. I admit that their vocals didn't impress me as much but I was able to understand that it was very difficult to belt out a tune right after doing a triple pirouette.

But all my doubts regarding the vocal chops of this group was shattered during the encore which was an a cappella performance. They first sang Lean on Me which was quite passable but when they did Paraiso, which is a local song, their vocals finally impressed me. And I also liked the one song they sang after they had their evening meal to show their gratitude to their hosts. I guess this just means that I am indeed getting old since the audience were really into the singing and dancing routine that was the main programme and I responded differently.

This feeling of getting older was magnified by the thousands during a brief forum at the end of the show. The audience were interested in finding out who's single or not among the members and asked if they have facebook accounts. Afterwards, the group was mobbed by people asking for photos and autographs.

This show may not have been for me but I still appreciated the performance. I admit that I liked the dancing a lot more than the singing. I rarely see good dancing on popular television programs and it was really a delight to see dancers with solid technique live. And seeing how the young audience reacted was also very amusing and it was like another show in itself for me.

PTGP Beethoven Concerto Competition 2010

It's the time of the year when going to concerts requires a lot more effort. For the PTGP Beethoven Competition 2010 Winner's Concert, the heavy rains resulting in flooded streets made it difficult for a lot of people to arrive at the Philamlife Theatre on time. But I did make it despite being very wet and quite haggard.

But thankfully, the foul weather didn't dampen the performance of the winners of this competition. Before the performances started, the finalists were awarded their trophies. For Category B, the winners were Kao Sugata (1st prize), Lorenzo Medel and Gabriel Allan Paguirigan (3rd prize). For Category C, the winners were Ma. Regina Montesclaros (1st prize), Maysel Joy Adap (2nd prize) and Elaine Sara Lim (3rd prize).

First to perform were the winners of the Best Performance of the Contest Piece. The winner for Category B was Gabriel Allan Paguirigan and he played Rondo in C Major Op. 51 No. 1 and he was followed immediately by Category C winner Maysel Joy Adap who then played Rondo in G Major Op. 51 No. 2. This being a Beethoven Concerto Competition meant that all the pieces played were obviously by Ludwig van Beethoven.

After the performances of the two Rondo, it was time for the 1st prize winners to perform. The winning pianists performed their respective concerto pieces accompanied by the UST Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera. And this was actually one of the prizes for winning the competition, a performance of their concerto piece accompanied by an orchestra. They did also receive a cash prize but I wasn't able to get information on how much did each of the winners including those who placed 2nd and 3rd for each categories.

The 1st prize winner for Category B was Kao Sugata and she played Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major Op. 15. Her Category C counterpart was Ma. Regina Montesclaros and her piece was Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58. They played adequately but still none of the passion that I would expect from a seasoned performer.

But I was really taken aback by the orchestra's performance especially the brass section which seemed to me to have been grossly out of tune. I know that they are a student orchestra but their performance that day didn't meet my expectations.