Tuesday, September 14, 2010
In Grand Symphony: CCP holds first National Orchestra Festival
Seeing and listening to an orchestra performance, a rare treat, can be overwhelming. Seeing and listening to seven for several nights can be a stupefying thought. But the country’s premiere cultural institution, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), is making it happen, the rarest of treats. Magnitude 7 on the Orchestra Scale: The First National Orchestra Festival gathers together seven of the country’s finest orchestras for five days of concerts and performances from Sept. 21 to 25.
Participating are FILharmoniKA with conductor Gerard Salonga, the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) with conductor Arturo Molina, the University of the Philippines (UP) Orchestra with conductor Edna “Michi” Marcil Martinez, the Angono Chamber Orchestra with conductor Agripino Diestro, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Symphony Orchestra with conductor Herminigildo Ranera, the PREDIS Chamber Orchestra with conductor Jeffrey Solares and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) with music director Olivier Ochanine.
Raul Sunico, vice president and artistic director of the CPP and himself an accomplished musician, came up with the idea of the festival, thinking there is a need to democratize the arts, specifically orchestra music. Although the PPO is the official orchestra of the country, he said that “there are several orchestras in the Philippines that need our support and promotion.”
This will be the first that time that the country’s orchestras will come together in a grand event. The difficulty of transporting large contingents with instruments, scheduling, funding and logistics prevented this from happening sooner. Fortunately, most of the orchestras are based around and near Metro Manila. The Peace Philharmonic Orchestra from Cebu has been invited but was not able to participate because of transportation difficulty and insufficiency of funds.
As with the case with other fields of the arts, endeavors like this are not highly profitable and funding is a problem. Sunico admitted that the musicians are not compensated as they should have been. Martinez of the UP Orchestra, the only woman conductor in the country, said that performing inside the CCP, which is held in esteem, is enough compensation for many members.
Additionally, the younger musicians get to interact with and learn from senior, professional and established players, especially during their participation in the Festival Orchestra, which is something to look forward to.
“The highlight of the event is the performance of the Festival Orchestra composed of selected members of the participating orchestras which shall be performing with the country’s eminent conductors,” Melissa Mantaring, head of the CCP Music Division, said.
The Festival Orchestra will open the festival on the Sept. 21, playing Symphony No. 5, Op. 64 in E Minor by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and will perform during the grand finale on Sept. 25 in which the conductors will take turns in leading the orchestra. In between, the other orchestras will have their own performances. According to Mantaring, overall the event will showcase an exciting and varied program of immensely enjoyable and appealing pieces written for the orchestra.
Also opening the festival is the PPO, the country’s leading and professional orchestra. It was formally inaugurated on May 15, 1973, as the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, initially intended to assist artists performing at the CCP Theater. It was reorganized in 1979 with a vision to be among the best in the world. The PPO has performed with many world renowned conductors, toured and performed in many countries, participated in many festivals, and premiered Filipino compositions and works by foreign composers not yet performed in the Philippines. For the festival, the PPO will perform Colas Breugnon Overture by Dmitri Kabalevsky; Pastorale d’été, H. 31 by Arthur Honneger; and Symphony No. 40 in G Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The following day, Sept. 22, the PREDIS Chamber Orchestra and the Manila Symphony Orchestra will take the stage.
The PREDIS Orchestra is composed of young musicians under the direct supervision and guidance of members of the MSO and are based at the Saint Scholastica’s College School of Music. Founded in 1985 by Basilio Manalo, and Sister Mary Placid Abejo, OSB, the Philippine Research for Developing Instrumental Soloists (PREDIS) was envisioned to develop young musicians for a professional music career. In 1995, advanced PREDIS members became the core group of the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra, which later became the founding members of the reorganized Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSOII). PREDIS still continues to provide scholarships to talented youth.
On the other hand, the MSO, currently composed of 60 musicians, is considered one of Asia’s oldest symphony orchestras. It was founded by Dr. Alexander Lippay in 1926. In 1931, the Manila Symphony Society was formed to support the MSO’s regular season concerts. During the 1940s until the 1960s the orchestra was under Dr. Herbert Zipper who led the orchestra to perform major symphonic works, ballets and opera productions. In 2001, it was resurrected by its long time concertmaster, Basilio Manalo, by elevating into professional status the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra, mostly composed of members trained under PREDIS.
The PREDIS Chamber Orchestra will perform Mozart’s Divertimiento in D Major, K 136; Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in A Minor; Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor; Edvard Grieg’s Suite from Holberg’s Time; and Bela Bartok’s Rumanian Dances. The MSO will play Angel Peña’s Philippine Festival Overture; Tchaikovsky’s Tempest; and Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.
On Sept. 23, the UST Symphony Orchestra and FILharmoniKa will perform.
Composed of 70 UST music students, the UST Symphony Orchestra is a resident performing group of the CCP. It was founded in 1927 by its conductor Dr. Manuel Casas of the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. After four public performances from 1929 to 1931, the group apparently disbanded and was reorganized in 1961 by National Artist for music Antonino Buenaventura. For the festival, the orchestra will play the Rienzi Overture by Richard Wagner; Piano Concerto No. 6 in B Flat Major K 238 by Mozart with Najib Ismail on the piano; and Finlandia by Jean Sibelius.
FILharmoniKA was formed in 2005 as the in-house recording ensemble of Carmel House Studios, a music and audio post-production facility in Manila, then known as the Global Studio Orchestra. In 2008, it took a new direction and a new name, FILharmoniKA. For the festival, it will perform “Terry’s Theme” from Limelight by Charlie Chaplin, arranged by Gerard Salonga; Night on a Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky; Yerma by Francisco Feliciano: and “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein.
The UP Orchestra and the Angono Chamber Orchestra will perform on Sept. 24.
The UP Orchestra has a sporadic existence. In 2003, it was revitalized by merging two existing orchestra classes, and now mainly serves as the laboratory class for the instrument majors of both the Strings and Chamber Music Department and the Winds and Percussion Department enrolled in orchestra class as well as one of the performing groups of the university.
Under the management of the Angono Philharmonic Society, the Angono Chamber Orchestra was founded conductor/composer Diestro, gathering talented children with ages ranging from 12 to 22 years old who come mostly from Angono and other towns in Rizal. Its main purpose is to bring classical music to the people of Angono and its neighboring towns. All members are taking lessons from noted Filipino instrumentalists under the U P Extension Program.
The UP Orchestra will perform Overture to the Impressario by Mozart; Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky; and “Mindanao Sketches” by Antonino Buenaventura. The Angono Chamber Orchestra will perform Francisco Buencamino’s Pizzicato Caprice; Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, KV356, Op. 3, No. 6, with violinist Mikhail Ivan Ramos; and Lucio San Pedro’s “Katutubong Awitin” and “Jubilate,” arranged by Diestro.
The Festival Orchestra will close the festival on Sept. 25 with the performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town; Richard Wagner’s “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” from Lohengrin; Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture; Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture”; Ralph Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; and selected movements from Gayane Ballet Suite by Aram Khachaturian.
Concerts will be held at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) at 8 p.m. For the opening and closing concerts of the festival, tickets are priced at P1,000 for orchestra center, P800 for orchestra sides, P600 for Balcony I and P200 for Balcony II. Tickets for the daily concerts are priced at P700 for orchestra center, P500 for orchestra sides, P300 for Balcony I and 200 for Balcony II. Festival passes, which provide access to all concerts, are priced at P3,400 for orchestra center, P2,600 for orchestra sides and P1,800 for Balcony I. Discounts are available for seniors at 20 percent and students at 50 percent off. For more information, call the CCP Box Office at telephone number 832-1125 local 1409 and direct line 832-3704.