Arts & Culture

The timeless magic of Concierto de Aranjuez

. Conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura. Good programming is attracting informed audiences.
. Conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura. Good programming is attracting informed audiences. Photo from the Cultural Center of the Philippines.



MUSIC lovers braved the Friday night traffic to watch the latest season offering of the Philippine Philharmonic under its new vibrant conductor, Yoshikazu Fukumura.

Now on its 34th season and founded four years after the CCP inauguration in 1969, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) founded by the late Luis Valencia has a curious transformation.

On the year it was founded then known as the CCP Philharmonic, the orchestra found itself with a world-famous soloist, soprano Beverly Sills in a special engagement at the Meralco Theater.

The late Prof. Oscar Yatco was its first conductor when it was named PPO and the ensemble was passed on to other conductors like the now National Artist for Music Francisco Feliciano.

Then a few years later, the orchestra management realized it could not achieve peace and unity under a Filipino conductor. Thus the reign of foreign music directors like Ruggero Barbieri (Italian), Eugene Castillo (Filipino-American), Olivier Ochanine (French-American) and now Yoshikazu Fukumura (Japanese).

Classical guitarist Eduardo Fernandez. Radiant in Vivaldi, spontaneous in ranjuez.
Classical guitarist Eduardo Fernandez. Radiant in Vivaldi,
spontaneous in ranjuez.

The last three conductors were fairly competent and one of them (Ochanine) helped organize the historic PPO landmark concert at the Carnegie Hall.

But Fukumura is no stranger to PPO audiences. He has appeared as guest conductor in the PPO season concerts in in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Thus even before the official screening and audition took place, the Japanese conductor was the natural choice.

As far as his first two concerts went this year, Fukumura was a good find indeed. In the last all-Beethoven concert capped by the highly challenging Ninth Symphony, his musicianship was unerring and one could see an initial good rapport with the Filipino musicians.

Friday night at the CCP, Fukumura gave Filipino music lovers an indication of his excellent sense of programming.

Except for the Vivaldi concerto for classical guitar scored for ten musicians including a harpsichordist, the main offering was clearly pure flavor of Spain from De Falla’s “El Amor Brujo” to Granados’ Intermezzo from “Goyescas” and Gimenez’s Intermezzo from “La Boda de Luis Alonso.”

On the whole, the reading was sharp and well-defined with the Spanish composers given the full justice they deserve.

But like it or not, the music lovers came for Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez which is rarely offered in the PPO programming.

The soloist was Eduardo Fernandez from Uruguay and top winner of the 1975 Andres Segovia Competition in Mallorca, Spain. He is also known as the author of the book on guitar technique, “Technique, Mechanism, Learning.”

In the Vivaldi Concerto in D Major, RV.93, Fernandez and his ten-member ensemble brought the audience straight to the baroque period. The touch hewed much to the style of that musical era and here the soloist was clearly in command.

But the audience clearly came for the Aranjuez concerto and the presence of young classical guitarists in the audience added to the excitement.

It is easy to see that the concerto is thoroughly Spanish in flavour and content but its patriotic melody found acceptance among classical guitar aficionados all over the world.

Although many associate the piece as a romantic piece, it was really inspired   by the gardens of Aranjuez, south of Madrid known for its magnificent Royal Palace and gardens.

What one easily noticed in the first movement was the PPO’s clear alignment with the concerto with informed, if, inspired cueing from Maestro Fukumura.

The Philippine Philharmonic at the CCP facade. Vibrant season concerts since September opening.
The Philippine Philharmonic at the CCP facade. Vibrant season concerts since September opening.

The allegro con spirito movement  was a swift aural journey into the gardens of Aranjuez and here the soloist allowed the music to speak for itself. But it is easy to see his how music flowed with ease from his instrument and this was even more evident in the adagio movement where you hear the concerto’s haunting theme played with such serenity.

One could feel a sense of detachment in Fernandez’s interpretation but you can feel the spontaneity and the stunning appeal of his scale passages.

Up to the concluding coda, both soloist and orchestra were in perfect unison and here you see how genuinely involved is the conductor to make the music connect to his audience.

Apart from the good soloist and a responsive orchestra and conductor, the Friday night audience was a highly informed one. No one applauded in between movements thus giving both erformers and audiences the good focus that the repertoire needs.

One agrees with CCP president Raul Sunico when he said that Fukumura’s selection as the new music director of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra is an exciting development that will add a dynamic and innovative chapter to the constant evolution of the PPO.

The overwhelming cheers that the orchestra got after Gimenez’s Intermezzo from “La Boda de Luis Alonso” was a singular triumph for both conductor and the ensemble.

The spontaneous applause led to a very appropriate encore piece, a section from Bizet’s Carmen Suite which capped a total and effortless Spanish musical conquest.