The concert of blind pianist Carlos Ibay having coincided with the papal visit, many devotees may have regarded the event a “miracle” by Pope Francis. The fact, however, is that Ibay who has performed in prestigious venues in the US and elsewhere, has given previous concerts in Manila.
His recent diverse program at the Teatrino in Greenhills demonstrated not only his versatility but also his virtuosity—incredible for a pianist who surpasses many of his peers with normal vision.
Ibay’s program opened with Chopin’s “Andante Spianato” and “Grand Polonaise,” the quietly nuanced former portion dramatically contrasting with the latter’s bravura passages which Ibay so skillfully delineated.
At the opposite end of Chopin’s glowing romanticism was Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” an orchestral piece transcribed for the piano. Robust and bristling on the whole, it is a description in music of a man jauntily walking the streets of Paris echoing with taxi horns, passing by a music hall, meeting a flirtatious woman who makes the advances, with nostalgia, homesickness occasionally overcoming the American.
Throughout, there are touches of the blues and jazz in Gershwin’s typical style, and Ibay who had earlier shown his firm grasp of Chopiniana, fascinated the audience with his conversance with Gershwin’s outgoing, overwhelming vitality. Likewise, Ibay delighted listeners with his rendition of the tango “Adios Nonino,” composed after the passing of Piazolla’s father. With the constant, rapid, abrupt gradations of tempo, the piece is hardly a tango. Ibay faithfully observed the rhythmic digressions as well as its unmelodious and distinctly quirky passages.
It is doubtless a tremendous, indeed a fantastic feat to play the piano without seeing the keys; but it is an even greater feat to do so while singing simultaneously. Ibay sang “Ave Maria,” popularized by the blind singer Andrea Bocelli, Donizetti’s aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” this a tribute to Pavarotti, Ibay’s idol; Santiago’s “Pakiusap,” among other songs. His voice was full, ringing firmly, his interpretations profoundly expressive in widely-ranging dynamics.
His encore pieces were “The Prayer and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring,” the latter in honor of the Sto. Niño whom he credits for his recovery from the flu in time for his concert.
Ibay concluded each number with a deep obeisance in three directions: left, right and center to acknowledge the consistently lusty applause. Some members of the audience gave the incredible Ibay a standing ovation; the rest would have done so if his impediment did not prevent him from appreciating the gesture.
Impressario Martin Lopez announced at this writing, that Ibay was to perform again on January 29 at the FEU auditorium where he played Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” with celebrated international pianist Raul Sunico.