Arts & Culture

Renato Lucas: Bach’s music is geometry of the mind


Cellist Renato Lucas. Fulfillment as performer and mentor.

When cellist Renato Lucas returns at the Manila Pianos May 5 for another round of Bach suites and a sonata, he will most likely bring with him years of experience as a cellist.

For his Bach recital, he has brief annotations to prepare the listeners on what to expect and what to listen to. “My aim is not just to be able for audiences to appreciate but to elevate a higher level of listening and to meditate and contemplate.”

Pianist Dingdong Fiel is his collaborator for the Bach 2 and the Gamba Sonata. “He was my former student at the conservatory and pianist to most of my cello students. Our collaboration is very smooth as we already know each other’s artistic temperament.”

Looking back, he was principal cellist of the Philippine Philharmonic for thirty years. In between soloist roles and chamber music commitments, he turned to teaching on the side. “Teaching at the UST conservatory energized me all these years,” he recalls. Among them, he singles out Damodar Das Castillo as an unforgettable super talented former student. “I taught Willie Pasamba briefly before he left for Russia. My successor at PPO, Gerry Gonzales, was my student. The cellist of the popular band Silent Sanctuary, Anjo Inacay, was another former student. I am a proud mentor of several talented cellists of the new generation.”

Renato Lucas with his talented student, Damodar Das Castillo. Teaching energizes him.

Many years back, he turned professional at age 15 when PPO founder Luis Valencia heard him in a chamber music concert with pianist Rowena Arrieta and violinist Joseph Esmilla.

The result was an invitation to join the CCP Philharmonic now known as the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Going back to his formative years at the San Francisco Conservatory, he remembers his teacher Bonnie Hampton who patiently undid, in his own words, all his bad cello habits.

This was the result of having no regular teacher. “My early cello mentor Prof. Modesto Maiquez migrated to the US. My other early cello teacher Herminia Atienza-Ilano left for Singapore when a new orchestra was founded.  Years without a mentor forced him to seek opportunities for studies abroad.

What followed was intermittent scholarships in the US, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In Germany, he was under the tutelage of the Russian-Armenian cellist Karine Georgian (a Tchaikovsky laureate) who was a student of Rostropovich student during his days at the Moscow Conservatory. “She demanded the best from me, Russian style, without mercy. My fellowship in England afforded me lessons from several cello faculty. All these experiences I must have acquired by osmosis and transferred to my students at the conservatory while training several generations of students of the UST Symphony. I also learned a lot from my students and interacting with them beyond the classrooms.”

Looking back, he reflects. “The PPO became my artistic refuge. After the years with Maestro Valencia, Prof. Oscar C. Yatco steered the orchestra to new heights giving opportunities to young musicians like me to perform as soloist in the season concerts.”

He had to retire after thirty years when his children were growing up and he had to attend to expanding responsibilities especially in the academe.

Taking most of his time now is running the National Music Competition for Young Artists (NAMCYA). “Running NAMCYA is my act of giving back after all the good opportunities given to me. It is quite remote from managing your life as a musician. It involves hours of overseeing rehearsals and looking for funds while discovering and nurturing young talents.  I must say it is a continuing and quite complex calling.”

A gathering of NAMCYA contestants. Renato Lucas’s way of giving back.

Other collaborations are quite memorable.

Like working with Raul Sunico in the award-winning recording “Romanza” and working with National Artist for Film Marilou Diaz-Abaya in the landmark film, “Jose Rizal.”

He admits preparations for his Manila Pianos recital are very tough and complicated. “’and gymnastics for the whole body. I always keep in mind a balanced repertoire. A good program for me is sharing with the audience something for the mind and something for the heart.”

(Renato B. Lucas: The Cello is Bach Lecture /Recital Series unfolds on Sunday May 5, 2024 at 6 pm.  The program :

  1. Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012
  2. Suite No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1008
  3. Sonata No. 2 in D Major, BWV 1028* (orig. for Viola da gamba and keyboard). Venue is at Manila Pianos showroom, 4/F Ronac Lifestyle Center, Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City. Ticket price : P 1000.00 (regular), P800.00 (seniors/PWD), P 600.00 (students).

To purchase your ticket(s), GCASH payment to 0917-415-8876 Richard S. Call 0917-415-8876, email or use the messenger on Manila Pianos Artist Series fb page. Ticket(s) will be ready at the gate on the day of the performance.)