Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New World

About a couple of weeks before this, I was already geared to watch five straight nights of orchestra performances of the National Orchestra Festival. But illness prevented me to do so and it seemed that there was indeed something in the air during that time since a lot of people got ill as well. So being able to watch the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) the following night after watching the PPO was something that I did to somewhat make up for missing this orchestra's performance during the festival. And prior commitments made me miss the MSO's two previous performances so I was glad to be on hand once again to watch them once again.

Still reeling from the horrible travel time that I experienced the day before, I set off early and yet I still encountered heavy traffic but not so much so I was able to arrive at the Philamlife Auditorium with time to spare.

The MSO, conducted by Arturo Molina prepared a very accessible program. Starting the night, they played Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 popularly known as the "New World" Symphony. This is one of the most popular symphonies ever and I guess because of this, my expectations were high and even the smallest deviation from my preferred interpretation could prove distracting. I don't know what it is about the horns or the brass section but there were again iffy moments especially during the opening of the second movement. Again, I just have to accept that it's a fact of life. Sadly, their performance didn't move me as much as I hoped to. It wasn't because the orchestra didn't play to my expectations but it was because another piece blew me away.

The piece which made the most impression on me despite the overwhelming popularity of the New World Symphony was surprisingly the piece in the programme that I absolutely had no knowledge of. I had no idea who Erich Korngold was and how his works sound like. I didn't read the programme notes prior to the performance so I was completely had neither idea nor any expectations about Korngold Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 featuring Joseph Esmilla on the violin. All I can say is that this is the kind of surprise that I really, really like. I thought that I was going to hear something difficult to grasp which is typical of some 20th century composers who used dissonance and other irregularities in abundance. But what I heard was something lyrical, extremely romantic and reminiscent of memorable film scores.

It wasn't surprising since I found out moments later that Korngold was indeed a composer of film music and used themes from his film work in this concerto. It was the first two movements that really moved me and made me want to search for recordings of this piece. The third movement was quite surprising since it was extremely cheerful and very different from the first two. But I was very glad to be able to hear this piece for the first time and at a live performance at that. Also notable is that this was also the Philippine premiere of this Korngold piece and I was glad to be present in this occasion. Oh dear, it seems that I forgot what Esmilla played for an encore.

But the night is not yet over for the orchestra still had the Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky to play. They played this piece at the National Orchestra Festival and I missed it. So very glad was I that I was able to have another chance to see this piece performed live. I love ballet music and if ever an orchestra performs a suite I really look forward to it. But again, the Korngold piece still occupied my mind during this time.

Also, this concert reminded me on how the country is already gearing up for the Christmas season since they played Tchaikovsky's Russian Dance from the Nutcracker Suite for one of their encores. Unfortunately, I forgot the other encore piece that they played.

Overall, this night was all about Korngold and Esmilla. I went inside the auditorium eagerly waiting for the two pieces that I was very familiar with but it was the wildcard that really surprised me, took over my mind and left the most lasting impression in me. And this is one of the things that I love most when watching orchestra performances.


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