Saturday, September 25, 2010

1st National Orchestra Festival 2010 Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra & Festival Orchestra

Finally, the 1st National Orchestra Festival 2010 has begun and I was there to witness the opening concert of the festival held at the CCP Main Theater. But I was really surprised when this night wasn't as grand as I thought it would be. And noticably absent was the pre-concert buzz at the lobby moments before the show started due to a less than desirable turn out. I guess that having the opening on a Tuesday wasn't the most appealing to a lot of people. And probably the weather which brought in heavy rains earlier that afternoon deterred some people from attending. And there was definitely something in the air since a lot of people have been getting sick lately.

But those factors didn't hinder me from being present that night and I was able to snag a couple of tickets thanks to Arvin Ello's contest. And I managed to bring with me a friend and member of the Pinoy Violinist forum who was available during that night. Unfortunately, Arvin was ill and wasn't able to make it.

The opening night featured two orchestras: the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Festival Orchestra under the baton of Olivier Ochanine. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra performed during the first half of the night. And they started with the Overture to Colas Beugnon by Dmitri Kabalevsky. I like a lot of Russian composers but somehow this work wasn't too familiar with me and I found it hard to concentrate on the music. This is usually the time when I usually settle down and it doesn't help at all if the first piece performed is something that I've never heard before.

The next was The Swan of Tuonela by Jean Sibelius. Tone poems are a hit and miss for me but this one had a nice english horn solo which kept me mesmerized. Again, unfamiliarity with this piece made it hard for me to focus. And it didn't help that I couldn't see the one playing the english horn from where I was sitting. And quite honestly during the first two pieces, I was gearing up for the next pieces to be played.

So finally, it was time for Symphony No. 40 in G Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and it brought memories of a previous performance of the same piece months ago. The last performance that I've seen of this piece performed by another orchestra wasn't that good and I was hopeful that this one would be a vast improvement. So despite my view regarding Mozart's music, I really looked forward to this performance. Thankfully, the PPO was a lot better but the horns were sloppy during one section of the second movement and even those who aren't familiar with the piece at all would've noticed that jarring moment. But despite this much improved performance of this specific piece, Mozart's work still doesn't excite me. Finally, the first part was over and it was almost time for the piece that Ochanine was really pimping prior to this night.

The second half was truly the highlight of the night since it was the debut of the Festival Orchestra composed of musicians from the different participating orchestras namely the Angono Chamber Orchestra, FILharmoniKA, Manila Symphony Orchestra, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, PREDIS Chamber Orchestra, UP Orchestra and UST Symphony Orchestra. And they played one of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's famous works, Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. I wasn't able to see musicians who were exclusively from PREDIS or AnChOr but these two groups are mostly made up of young kids still studying so I guess that it wasn't possible for them to join the Festival Orchestra. But some who came from these two groups during their younger years are now currently playing for the other orchestras participating so PREDIS and AnChOr were still represented.

Anyways, the Festival Orchestra was massive with all these members and the sound they produced was massive as well which was very appropriate for this popular Tchaikovsky piece. The orchestra shook the theater and the crescendos really swelled sweeping me away. It was like playing a recording with the volume on max but a lot better since this was a live performance. I was glad to hear once again the famous theme of the second movement which sent shivers down my spine and thankfully, the horn solo played well. One thing that I regret once again was not seeing the players further back the stage. I was able to have a good view of the cello and the double bass section but I wasn't able to see the wind, brass and percussion sections at all. So I wasn't able to see if a solo part was done by which musician and from which orchestra was he or she from. And no wonder the Ochanine pimped this piece a lot since he had the whole piece memorized since he didn't use a score during this performance.

But still, it was a very good performance and only someone without a soul would not be moved by not just the popular second movement theme but also the coda that ends the entire symphony. It's just a shame that the opening night of this festival didn't have the same audience turnout compared to the opening night of the PPO season a couple of weeks before.

Their encore was Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar and once again, having more members made the piece soar a lot more. And I remembered that Ochanine with the PPO during his debut some months ago also performed this piece as an encore.

It was a nice performance especially the Tchaikovsky piece which was divine. I initially wanted to watch every night of this festival but prior commitments and the need to pace myself to avoid fatigue and exhaustion prevent me from doing so. So just wait and see if ever I would be able to make it to the other nights.


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