Monday, September 20, 2010

PPO I - La Musique Francaise

The opening concert of the 28th Season of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at the CCP Main Theater was very memorable for me. I bet that this was also equally memorable for PPO Principal Conductor and Music Director Olivier Ochanine. Months ago, I told him that I would bring to the CCP a group of recreational musicians with little or no experience in watching an orchestra perform live. And on this night itself, I had with me a bunch of friends from the Pinoy Violinists forums who had little or no experience in watching an orchestra performance.

Their presence gave me an added boost of energy for that night. I was able to appreciate the entire programme of the concert because of them. I confess that I have no idea about Harold in Italy by Hector Berlioz and Pastoral d'Ete by Arthur Honegger which were two of the four pieces performed that night. But one of the people in the group also plays the viola and the Berlioz piece is one of his favorites and the another likes pastoral music. So their desire to hear these pieces somehow added to my anticipation and it dispelled any indifference that I felt regarding these pieces.

The first piece performed that night was Harold in Italy featuring Japanese violist Sayaka Kokubo who is now part of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Upon reading the programme notes and the voice over prior to the performance, I somehow got a little idea of how this piece would turn out to be especially with the reference to Paganini. Kokubo had a very interesting looking viola and the piece itself was quite interesting too. I've already said before that I'm not really familiar with the repertoire for viola but this piece was really unusual since it wasn't really a virtuosic piece. After this piece was performed, we finally realized why Paganini refused to play it. There weren't any jaw dropping passages from the violist and it was the typical program music that I am not really a fan of. We were hoping for an encore from Kokubo but unfortunately, that didn't happen.

The piece that I was looking forward to started the second half of the night. I have fond memories of Darius Milhaud especially with his works influenced by Brazilian music. And the piece performed by the orchestra, Le Boeuf sur le Toit, Op. 58 was definitely infused with Brazilian and South American music and rhythm. To pump myself for this night, I listened to a recording of this piece. The PPO played it differently from the recording but that was alright with me since another interpretation only serves to enhance my knowledge of the said piece.

After that, it was Pastoral d'Ete that was performed. As I've said before, I am not a huge fan of pastoral music. But again, one of my friends with me that night likes pastoral music. And if he was happy because of the inclusion of this music in the programme, then whom am I to complain.

The last piece performed was the one piece many of my companions were waiting for: Maurice Ravel's Bolero. Many of them are very familiar with the piece and yet this was the first time that they've seen it performed live and I was honored to have been with for this experience. They found it amusing how the snare drum played the same two bars over and over again and yet he was positioned at the center of the orchestra. And they also noticed how the trombone had difficulty in playing his part which is quite a shame since that part with its slides is one of my favorites in the entire piece. Even those with an untrained ear were able to notice that things didn't go well for him. But I heard from someone that he had a problem with his tooth/teeth on that night hence the difficulty during his solo.

The orchestra then played pieces from non-French composers for their encore. I failed to take note of the first encore that sounded like a loud polka that always pleases the crowd but the second one they played was Intermezzo by Pietro Mascagni from Cavalleria rusticana. And this second encore really got through me since it evoked some memories within me.

After the concert, my friends were thrilled when they were able to meet violist Sayaka Kokubo and conductor Olivier Ochanine at the lobby. Some had their souvenir programmes signed by these two and then we had our photos taken with them. It's been a pleasure for me to accompany them to this performance as this inspired them to practice their instruments more and appreciate music more as well. So dear reader, don't be surprised if you see us once again at another concert soon.


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