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The journey to realize the star-studded Mostly Mozart Festival




Cristine Coyiuto
Cristine Coyiuto

THE Mostly Mozart 2014 Festival comes while the music world mourns the recent death of Maestro Oscar Yatco who did much to raise the country’s musical standards.

Pianist Cristine Coyiuto, who will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 K. 488 and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphonywith the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) which Yatco honed in its early years, said of the late violin prodigy-conductor, “It’s sad that we have lost a very fine musician. I met him in the ’80s when he wanted to do a Beethoven concerto with me. It didn’t materialize. We both got so busy. I had to return to Canada. Helen Quach died last year. I did the Grieg concerto with the MSO and the Schumann concerto with her and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. We miss her terribly.”

The groundwork for the July 11 concert at the Philippine Stock Exchange auditorium, Textite Tower, Ortigas Center in Pasig was prepared more than three years ago. Joseph Uy, one of the concert organizers, said, “The first time I heard of (guest conductor) Darrell Ang was from conductor Andrei Boreyko who asked me to listen to an audio recording of a live broadcast from St. Petersburg of a promising young conductor. He told me, ‘Watch out for him.’”

The international press refers to Ang, the music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne, as the “heir apparent of Seiji Ozawa.”

Uy continued, “I didn’t know how to get in touch with him until four years ago when I was planning a Wagner concert and needed a good conductor. I asked (pianist) Albert Tiu for suggestions. I learned that Darrell was from Singapore. Albert was our bridge. We agreed on a concert in 2012, but it had to be moved. He was no longer available. We set another concert in 2013. His schedule was full. It would’ve been expensive to bring him from France to Manila. He told me he’d have a short vacation in Singapore this year so we settled on a date.”

Conductor Darrell AngSince the Manila Chamber Orchestra (MCO) Foundation’s budget has been drastically cut, a full orchestra was out of the question. Uy thought that Ang could lead a chamber orchestra featuring Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music.

He said, “Cristine joined the gang. She’s one of our under-rated pianists, more of an introvert type with much depth, perfect for Mozart. There are misconceptions about Mozart’s music—that it’s easy, light. If you study it more intensively, there is much sorrow. No one can do it better than Cristine; she has the maturity for K488.”

He continued, “For vocal music, Mozart requires maturity and understanding of the text, not only the voice No one here is more qualified than tenor Arthur Espiritu. He is the complete package: voice, intelligence, looks. These three artists definitely make this concert the ultimate. I was surprised we could come up with such a line-up and this program. It’s God’s will.”

Coyiuto said, “K488 is my favorite Mozart concerto not only because of its happy, sunny mood but because of the second movement. The Adagio is special to me. This is the only piece Mozart wrote in the key of F sharp minor. There is much anguish, despair, longing, sorrow in the slow movement. There is a resemblance between this concerto and his opera The Marriage of Figaro. Both works were composed in 1786.The orchestra in K488 is small. Mozart only wrote for one flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and strings. There are no timpani or trumpets. He preferred a more intimate sound in this concerto.”

She first played the concerto with the MCO at the opening of the Francisco Santiago Hall inside the PCI Bank building in 1984 . The newly formed MCO was headed by Sergio Esmilla Sr. and founded by then bank president Antonio Ozaeta.

She performed the same piece again with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Choo Hoey. She added, “Interestingly enough, this time I will play this beautiful work with another Singaporean conductor, Maestro Ang.”

Tenor Arthur Espiritu2Describing Ang, Uy said, “When I told him that MSO is composed of young musicians, he said yes. He loves working with the young. He formed the National Youth Orchestra of Singapore. His foundation helps young Singaporean musicians to study abroad. He is donating his fee to the MCOF Young Artists Development Program. He knows how hard it is for a musician to start a career. It’s a lifetime of struggle. For those who’ve made it and have big hearts, they share their art and support the young. Look at soprano Sumi Jo. Now we have Maestro Ang.”

Asked if she is ever overwhelmed by Mozart, Coyiuto answered, “Definitely yes! It’s difficult to play Mozart well not only because of the endless runs, scales, arpeggios, etc., but also because he is very transparent and exposed. A good Mozart player must play in the right spirit, with the right touch, musical shape, feeling. Simplicity in music is most difficult!”