Arts & Culture

The impeccable sound of Diomedes Saraza, Jr.



Photo by Kiko Cabuena

Violinist Diomedes Saraza with pianist J. Greg Zuniega. Photo by Kiko Cabuena.WEDNESDAY night at the CCP, violinist Diomedes Saraza, Jr. treated his recital audience to an evening of Bach and Beethoven and with a contemporary piece written by an American pianist thrown in.

The first piece is a Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV1005.

This is not your usual violin sonata because it is unaccompanied and you have to make sense of it all throughout the four sections from adagio, fuga, largo and the allegro assai finale.

Because as all seasoned violinists admit, Bach sonatas are difficult pieces to play and even more harder to interpret. Without an accompanist, the recitalist has to fend for himself and make the work alive and interesting to an audience not regularly exposed to difficult violin repertoire.

But then Saraza is made of sterner stuff.

His  sound is all at once refreshing and the tone has an impeccable quality hard to find among young string players. His focus is even more astounding as you relish the complex dynamics of the piece.

August 10 poster of Saraza with MSO.In this Bach sonata as interpreted by Saraza, you find the soul of the composer and you realize what makes Bach so easy to listen to but actually hard to execute when you see the musician perform it live. He  only projects the music and not how he produces the sound. Indeed, his technique doesn’t call attention to itself but used strictly in the service of his music.

The complex fuga and largo movements Saraza carved with delicate nuances intact. The slow movements done with, the violinist showed his unerring virtuoso side in the allegro assai movement which drew lusty cheers and applause.

A curiosity in the recital is the Philippine premiere of “Poeme” written by a 23-year old American pianist named Alvin Zhu. The piece has interesting imagery and Saraza made the most of it sculpting musical images from its three sections marked Appasionata,  Water and Sailing.

With J. Greg Zuniega on the piano, the piece sounded difficult to fathom but always, you get carried away by its unique musical labyrinths. Obviously, the interpreters needed more time for this piece or the piece itself needed more introspection. Whichever way you look at it, Saraza gave it a good try by producing the sounds that always do justice to the composer.

August 20 poster of Saraza with Oliver Salonga with MSO .With Beethoven’s Violin sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 also known as the “Kreutzer,” Saraza gave his audience the kind of musicianship  that left no doubt about his caliber as a  major talent.

Lasting close to 45 minutes, the sonata is  a major challenge not just for the violinist but for the collaborating pianist as well. A sonata is nothing even with a superb violinist. The pianist has to match or complement the violinist and make sure the rapport is real. Indeed, the violinist can execute seamless chords in triple and quadruple stops but if the pianist doesn’t come in and fade with as much power and delicacy, the piece is sure to be a long sleeper.

Saraza is equipped not just with the technique but the ability to flow over the sound of his pianist and project it as a spontaneous collaboration. The long second movement was  a testament to his artistry as well as his pianist. The last movement was a breeze with the two collaborating artists making aural magic out of the recurring rhythmic pattern.

As in the opening Bach sonata, it was the impeccable sound of the violinist that prevailed in the closing Beethoven sonata. The audience was euphoric but the artist is not the kind who will gloat on audience response. He remains amiable and true to himself in the curtain call.

Rehearsing for the first time the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 which he will play with the MSO on August 10 at the Francisco Santiago Hall, the orchestra members had only one impression: he has sure-fire technique and incredible charisma.

This electrifying Bartok concerto will be heard again on August 20 at the UP Abelardo Hall in Diliman, Quezon City as he shares the stage with pianist Oliver Salonga who will play Chopin’s Piano Concerto also with the MSO.

As for his choice of the concerto for August 10 and 20, Saraza has only one answer: “I love Bartok’s music and it’s about time I share my love for contemporary music with Manila’s music lovers.”