Arts & Culture

Finally, the PPO has a star conductor; next concert at Pasig Cathedral Sept. 22


Maestro Grzegorz Nowak in action. Photo by Orly Daquipil

In one’s past concert-going days at the CCP, audiences always rooted for the soloist in many an orchestral season.

Which made one think Filipinos are not keen on symphonies and would rather listen to concertos and then go home during the intermission before the finale of another program music.

The habit has become so predictable the orchestra would reverse the program and end the concert with the soloist (especially if it is the likes of Cecile Licad) just to keep the audience at the end of the concert.

Friday night (Sept. 15) at the Samsung Theater for Performing Arts in Circuit Makati was different.

The Philippine Philharmonic under Maestro Grzegorz Nowak opened with an excellent reading of the pretty short Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9.

One was relieved to see acoustics shell behind the orchestra. Although it is not the ideal sound one would expect from a theater, the sonority was solid and fairly satisfactory.

From the way the Polish conductor projected the essence of the music, one could see musical genius at work.

It was enough to muster great anticipation for the rest of the program.

Indeed, the Grieg A Minor Concerto was evocative of the Schumann concerto.

Pianist Mark Bebbington with PPO. A brilliant Grieg concerto soloist. Photo by Orly Daquipil

Pianist Mark Bebbington was a sensitive interpreter and found ways to project the delicate nuances of the Grieg concerto without extraneous mannerism. It must be noted that this concerto is hardly heard in concert seasons although it always finds it way in school graduation recitals.

From the way Bebbington interacted with the PPO under a masterful Maestro Nowak, you saw layers of the music that you didn’t see in previous concerts of long ago.

No doubt the night’s piece de resistance, Respighi’s Pini di Roma (Nights of Rome) showcased the PPO at its best under a superb conductor.

It was like visiting a museum with canvasses showing the many natural attractions of Rome.

It was a miracle how the music projected sights of Rome with all its multi-faceted attractions.

The first movement allegretto vivace (The Pines of the Villa Borghese) showed us music depicting children at play in the pine groves of the Villa Borghese, dancing the Italian equivalent of “Ring around a Rosy.”  The music conjured children mimicking marching soldiers and battles. (From the program notes of James Keller of the San Francisco Symphony).

Curtain call for PPO under Maestro Nowak. Worthy of the standing ovation. Photo by Orly Daquipil

The second Lento movement is eerie as we see the musical equivalent of the shadows of pines framing catacombs.

No doubt the most thrilling part is the third Lento movement showing the Pines of the Janiculum and the moon under the pines of Gianicolo’s Hill. There was hushed, if, muffled, murmurs of admiration when the audience heard a nightingale at the end of the third movement.

In the last movement called Tempo di Marcia, Maestro Nowak assigned the trumpets and other instruments in the two sides of the balcony section of the theater.

The concluding movement conjured images of misty dawn on the Appian Way. The sounds relived visions of the past glories of Rome with trumpets blaring from the balcony section of the theater.

Here you see a superb conductor at work.

CCP president Michelle Nikki Junia delivers welcome remarks at PPO opening concert. Photo by Orly Daquipil

Never has the PPO sounded magical, robust and commanding as it wrapped up the night with total aural enchantment.

Maestro Nowak and the PPO deserved the several rounds of curtain calls and standing ovations.

The new CCP president Michelle Nikki Junia delivered the welcome remarks. Seen in the PPO opening concert were former ad interim president Margie Moran Floirendo and Nedy Tantoco, president of the PPO Society Foundation.

The next PPO season concert on October 13 features a commissioned Filipino work, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with cellist Wen-Sinn Yang and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Op.90.

The PPO’s next outreach engagement under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera is at the historic Pasig Cathedral in Pasig City on Friday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m. along with the Philippine Madrigal Singers. It is open to the public.

It is a fitting celebration on the 450th year of the church and the City of Pasig.

Pasig—which became a city only in 1993, courtesy of Rep. Rufino Javier—was founded on July 2,1573, when it received its first bell as a new mission parish named after Our Lady of the Visitation. Many years later, the town turned to Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion as its patron saint.

It was at the Pasig Cathedral across Plaza Rizal and Pasig Museum that the American Commission, headed by William Howard Taft, met on June 11, 1901, creating the new province of Rizal and making Pasig its capital.

Across the cathedral was what used to be the town glorietta adjacent to the mansion of the first pharmacist of Pasig (and later town mayor), Don Fortunato Concepcion, is the Pasig Museum. The house built in 1937 was where President Quezon used to make political visits.

It was the same mansion where Pavarotti’s first teacher from Modena, Italy, Arrigo Pola, used to stay before fulfilling his engagement in the Pasig glorietta.

Just a walk away from the Pasig Cathedral along Marcelo H. del Pilar St. in San Nicolas, Pasig is the house of Valentin Cruz who worked closely with Andres Bonifacio on the plot to oust the Spanish colonizers.

Carmencita Lozada, the first and last Filipino prizewinner of the 1956 and 1961 Paganini International Violin Competition in Italy is also from Pasig along with National Artist for Music Ramon Santos who used to direct operettas at the Pasig Catholic School in the 60s. 

       (The September 22 Pasig Cathedral concert is made possible with the support of Diocese of Pasig, Comite de Festejos de Pasig 2023, Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, Rep.  Roman T. Romulo, Mayor Vico Sotto and members of the 11th Sangguniang Panlungsod, Pasig Cathedral Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Mariano L. Baranda, Rector & Parish Priest of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral; and Jovito V. Gertes and Marinella A. Salem of the Comite de Festejos de Pasig 2023.)