Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sofya Gulyak Concert

The press release called this concert series Titans of the Piano. This was actually the first of two concerts held dubbed as such. It has become a must for me to watch piano recitals/concerts/performances especially those featuring musicians who rarely perform here. And it's got to be a matter of life or death for me to miss any of them or as Mr. Ray Sison of ROS Music Center puts it, it must be the end of the world if I'm not present.

Gulyak really seemed like a Titan of the piano based on her numerous victories in competition and I anticipated to experience how much of a Titan she really is during her concert at the Philamlife Auditorium.

A lot of people really did think that she's a Titan and proof of that is the audience which was of the same caliber. Among those present were Mother Lily and Imelda Marcos. And along with Mrs. Marcos was that presence that is really noticable. And it doesn't matter whether you like her or hate her. It made me regret a bit that I was too casually dressed for the ocassion since I just wore a Batman t-shirt and jeans. I had an early morning appointment and decided not to go home in the afternoon to change and decided to hang out a bit and sit in at a chamber orchestra rehearsal to pass the time.

Gulyak prepared a very heavy program which is still in keeping with the Titan theme, mind you. The first half of the program consisted of Frederic Chopin's works: 3 Mazurkas, Op. 59, Polonaise Fantaisie in A flat, Op. 61, Scherzo No. 3 in C Sharp minor, Op. 39 and Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise. That is one very heavy lineup and it made me very happy despite not being a huge fan of the Mazurkas.

Speaking of the Mazurkas, I felt a bit bad when Gulyak finished playing all three since it seemed that not a lot were a fan of Mazurkas too since no one applauded after this piece. I thought that she would break down and cry, or worse, walk out off the stage. I guess that the audience were still shaken by the presence of Imelda Marcos to focus on Gulyak and her performance. But Gulyak then played the opening chords of the Polonaise Fantaisie and followed it up with the sublime ascending notes that really sold the piece for me. I've said this before that this is my favorite Chopin piece for the solo piano and when Gulyak played this, I vowed that I would be among the first to applaud when this piece ended. It seemed that a lot were also willing to compensate for their lapse after the Mazurkas since she received a hearty applause after this piece.

The next piece was the scherzo and again, she played with such precision although I felt that the cascading notes weren't light enough for me. But she still amazed me nonetheless by the force coming from her that doesn't show itself when looking at her initially since she looked like a very shy and introverted person. She finished the first half with the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise and she started off great although I felt that the ending of the Grande Polonaise was too rushed.

The Chopin part was now over and it was on to the next part featuring the works of another composer which was Robert Schumann. I admit that I'm not too familiar with most of Schumann's works that she played: Abegg Variations, Kinderscenen and Carnaval. Compared to most of Chopin's works which I know like the back of my hand, Schumann's works do not really remain on my mind and I never bothered to learn them.

Oddly, Gulyak had this uncanny ability that made me appreciate the second half a lot more than I expected. I guess not setting any expectations really helped since my high expectations of Chopin led me to complain about the smallest deviations which weren't in line with how I like Chopin to be played. I guess that this meant that it's probably time for me to take an effort to really learn more works from other composers since I've been surprised lately on how I like most of them and regretting not having heard of them earlier.

But after this, I felt a bit too burdened since the programme really felt heavy. It's too much Titan for my endurance. But I liked her encore of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C minor from his Fantasy Pieces despite it being dark and brooding. I guess that I still had room for one more but anything more I didn't know if I would be able to take it. It made want to imagine how interesting it would be to hear Gulyak play a Mozart or a Haydn piece but I guess that the dark, heavy, romantic pieces are her forte. So that was what she offered to her appreciative Manila audience which incidentally included Mrs. Imelda Marcos.


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