• Cecile Licad: Awesome!; A Call for PH, B’way Songs

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    Francis Fest, which marks the 40th year of Santuario de San Antonio as a parish, presented the country’s leading international pianist Cecile Licad and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic under conductor Gerard Salonga, filling the church to capacity.

    Bartok’s overwhelming propulsive and percussive Concerto No. 1 is largely a dialogue between piano and drums, a huge drum and two smaller ones enlarging the orchestra. The Concerto, daunting and perilous even for the most seasoned virtuoso, is replete with dissonant chords requiring tremendous energy and vitality, abrupt, shifting accents and rhythmic changes—original and innovative for 20th century music. All these were met with Licad’s phenomenal technique.

    Big screens showed close-ups of Licad’s strikingly nimble and forceful fingers; indeed Licad is one of the very few women pianists I have heard who possesses masculine power, consistently manifesting this in the Concerto’s hard texture and abounding atonalities.

    Steadily descriptive and expressive, Licad evoked poignant beauty in Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, deep melancholy in Macdowell’s Sonata No. 1 (Tragica) which laments the death of a friend; a vivid, intoxicating Spanish spirit in Gottschalk’s La Jota Aragonesa, Manchega and Souvenir d’ Andalousie, therein, the audience “hearing” the clicking of castanets, the snapping of fingers, the strumming of guitars, the thunder of zapateados. Or “seeing” dizzying turns and twirls. How brilliantly Licad had captured the essence, the substance of Spanish music!

    Musicologists describe Liszt’s St. Francis Walking on Waters an “impressionistic acquarelle.” Licad’s subtle nuances delineated the calm of the sea, and a storm surging and ebbing, then rising to a torrential triumph, with Licad’s overwhelming chordal passages, in the swiftest tempo, covering the entire keyboard.

    In sum, Licad brought to mind what her legendary mentor Rudolf Serkin observed: “She is at home in any style.” And awesomely so! The deafening clamor led to two native encores, the first converted into a dazzling bravura piece, both works signifying Licad’s pride in being Filipino. The third was an excerpt from “Embraceable You,” which the pianist dedicated to her son who was celebrating his birthday.

    The concert opened with welcome remarks from Francis Fest chairperson Amelita Guevara, followed by a disciplined, cohesive, engaging orchestral rendition of Liszt’s Les Preludes conducted by Salonga.

    To Karla Gutierrez, Philippine Opera Company head, traditional and contemporary Filipino songs are our very own. We must preserve our heritage; if we ourselves do not perform, render and interpret them, who else will? Karla proudly and eloquently states that for the last 15 years, POC artists have been staging successful native programs ranging from children’s songs to tribal chants, from planting songs to courtship ditties, from exquisite kundimans to Sylvia la Torre’s enchanting showstoppers.

    Selections in the Ang Bagong Harana concert will be culled from the best of them, including songs by Filipino composers of various genres: Abelardo, Cayabyab, Willy Cruz, Santiago, Molina, Umali, Tanseco, Cuenco, Celerio, Estella, de Guzman, de Leon, etc .

    The presentations, reasoned Karla, which will mark POC’s 15th (Pearl) Anniversary on October 17 and 24 at 8 p.m., on October 18, 24 and 25 at 3 p.m. at the RCBC Theater in Makati, are envisioned as the love song of the country. Karla wishes to perpetrate and preserve our own because it is endangered by foreign songs.

    St. Paul University presented “Memories of Broadway” to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its College of Music headed by Dean Sr. Anunciata Sta. Ana. In past decades, the College staged musicals so regularly, it earned the soubriquet “Broadway on Herran St.” Indeed, Broadway songs have become a part of our culture; thus the show last October 8 featured alumni, faculty and students singing them with gusto.

    Ballet Manila Stuns Anew
    With the mighty baton of Russian conductor Alexander Vikulov over the Manila Symphony Orchestra infusing life into Prokofiev’s music, and the music, in turn, infusing life into the dance, Ballet Manila’s staging of Romeo and Juliet stunned the Aliw Theater audience anew.

    Typical of the company’s standards, the performance manifested the highest degree of discipline and cohesion, the ballerinas fluidly graceful, the danseurs buoyantly brisk and virile, both ballerinas and danseurs light and fleet-footed.

    Amidst ravishing, eye-catching stage sets complemented by elaborate, opulent costumes befitting the aristocratic Capulets (Juliet’s family) and Montagues (Romeo’s family), the long-standing feud between them unfolded through emotive, dramatic, balletic – indeed, immensely descriptive idiom – choreographed by Paul Vasterling who worked with a veritably huge cast.

    The pas de deux in both the balcony and bedroom scenes, delineated, with exquisite poignancy, intense, and passionate youthful love. The beautiful, winsome Katherine Barkman radiantly portrayed Juliet, and seasoned Rudy de Dios, Romeo.

    In the opening episode and later episodes, Gerard Francisco (Mercutio) and Rudolph Capongcol (Benvolio) stood out for their admirable dancing; the petite Pia Danes, spritely and sparkling, was brilliant as Mecurtio’s Gypsy.

    Barkman was intensely touching, her every movement and facial expression revealing overwhelming pain and grief over the passing of her beloved Romeo.

    The stirring and exciting duels, the crowd scenes, alternately festive and furious, enriched the beguiling production.

    Special mention should be made of Liza Macuja-Elizalde, the company’s artistic director and hitherto, its incomparable prima ballerina, as Lady Capulet; Nonoy Froilan, whom I have highly praised in the past, as Lord Capulet; German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski, as the Prince of Varona.

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