Saturday, September 25, 2010

1st National Orchestra Festival 2010 UST Symphony Orchestra & FILharmoniKA

I made an effort to see this third night of the festival despite not feeling very well for various reasons. First, some members of the UST Symphony Orchestra are my friends and I wanted to support them. And I am also friends with some of the university's music students so I knew that I would see them there as well. Second, some members of the Pinoy Violinist group would be there as well since some of them are being mentored by a violinist from FILharmoniKA who is also from UST. So despite my body's desire to rest, I disobeyed common sense and watched this performance.

The evening started with the USTSO conducted by Herminigildo Ranera performing the Overture to "Rienzi" by Richard Wagner. And just like the opening night, things got started with an overture which I am not really familiar with. It was really hard for me to get into the zone since I was not feeling well and this was an unfamiliar piece.

Next performed was Piano Concerto No. 6 in B Flat Major, K. 238 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart featuring pianist Najib Ismail. I've seen him perform a Mozart piano concerto before and as I've been saying again and again, as much as I prefer seeing piano concerto performances, Mozart pieces don't excite me that much. But there's no denying that Ismail really knows how to play Mozart and he definitely nailed this performance. Unfortunately, the orchestra still wasn't able to match his level.

The last piece that the USTSO performed was Albert Reed's Symphony for Brass and Percussion and this was an interesting piece since as stated in the title, only the brass and percussion section were present. I guess that this was when my interest was heightened and I was finally able to get settled for the night.

There was an interval after this in preparation for the next part which was performed by FILharmoniKA conducted by Gerard Salonga. I admit that I enjoyed this part of the programme more since the pieces were familiar to me and I was already looking forward to them even before this night. It's quite rare to have a Charlie Chaplin piece performed by an orchestra. But Terry's Theme from Limelight is absolutely one of my favorites and it was really nice to see it finally performed live by an orchestra. And the orchestration really satisfied my expectations since it retained and captured what I like about this piece.

And they followed it up with another favorite which was Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. A friend of mine also like this piece and we were both pleased to see this performed live a last. And aside from Russian music, I also like Spanish music so having Manuel de Falla's Three Dances from El Sombrero de Tres Picos, Suite No. 2 continued the roll of FILharminiKA for me.

After this, things slowed down with Antonino Buenaventura's Meditation featuring a sublime violin solo from the orchestra's concertmaster Rechelle Alcanses. This was a short piece but it was sweet and provided a nice change of pace before the next piece which was the highlight for me: Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This is a very familiar piece to me and it's one of my favorites as well. The orchestra performed this piece months ago which I failed to watch so I was extremely glad that I was present when they performed it again. I couldn't tell if FILharmoniKA prepared a more accessible programme or if it just happened that I was more familiar with the pieces that they performed.

After this, there was another interval before the next part where the two orchestras were combined. Most people who weren't there during the opening of the festival marvelled at the number of musicians onstage. But I was there so it didn't surprise me at all since I think that the Festival Orchestra numbered more than the USTSO and FILharmoniKA combined.

The final two pieces that the combined orchestra performed were Jean Sibelius' Finlandia and Mikhail Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmila. The first piece was conducted by Ranera while Salonga took over for the second piece. The combined orchestra radiated a different kind of energy which was really interesting to see. And the combined numbers really produced a bigger sound which was really evident during the frantic strings of the Glinka overture. It felt a bit odd that the final piece would be an overture and finally, a familiar piece for me. After this, the audience demanded an encore from the combined orchestra and Salonga conducted the music from Cinema Paradiso which was really appreciated by the audience.

USTSO surprised me once again since they have been on the upswing and I do hope that this trend continues. But it was really noticeable how different FILharmoniKA was compared to them. USTSO is an orchestra made up of students while FILharmoniKA is already establishing its identity as an orchestra with the help of its high profile conductor.

It was a long night and fortunately, my friends and I were still able to socialize a bit after the concert. This was quite an exhausting day for me and I do need to build my stamina if I were to survive busy days like this. But as always, music does have an energizing effect on me. And a night spent with friends listening to orchestral music was a great way to end the day.


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