AIMA LABRA-MAKK again asserted her distinct position among the country’s leading pianists when she performed Rachmaninoff’s “Concerto No. 2 in C Minor,” with the Metro Manila Concert Orchestra under conductor Josefino “Chino” Toledo assisting.
The Concerto is the most frequently performed here; Makk demonstrated in her interpretation technical mastery and remarkable artistic resources. To begin with, she is among the very few women pianists this reviewer has heard who possess the power demanded by the piece. Her solid tones, inflections and expressive phrasing brought out its essence eloquently. Although the manifestation of virtuosity was not her primary aim, it inevitably emerged in her effortless, smooth, fluid runs and tremendous attack of chordal passages, with the inherent lyricism of the Concerto surfacing exquisitely.
As an aside, this lyricism, particularly in the third movement, has led to the popular song “Full Moon and Empty Arms.”
Toledo meticulously followed Makk’s delineation of the work’s form and content; the closest collaboration between ensemble and pianist was most evident. Throughout, Makk infused the selection with vitality and freshness, her propulsive command and sensitive nuances leading to deafening applause. Graciously, she responded with an encore as mind-blowing (if briefer) a bravura piece as the Concerto.
The melodiousness of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise (Song without Words) is more discernible, more readily appreciated when the selection is rendered by a singer. This is not to negate the high degree of skill shown by Crystal Rodis Concepcion who played Vocalise on the flute, although the quality or timber of the human voice is softer, more pleasant and mellifluous than that of a metal instrument.
Attractive soprano Gerphil-Geraldine Flores, attired in a stunning, shimmering gown in gold, admirably sustained exceedingly high notes, her voice full and controlled in “Speak Softly Love” and “The Impossible Dream.” However, the popular songs were not in keeping with the tenor of the formal, classical concert devoted exclusively to Rachmaninoff’s compositions.
This point brings me to the emcees Miguel Faustmann and Robie Zialcita, both brilliant actors of Repertory Philippines.
Their comic remarks, delivered before each number, likewise went against the tenor of the formal concert entitled: “The MMCO: The Sound of Excellence”.
Accompanied by antics, their explanatory comments and introduction of the performers duplicated the printed program, extending the length of the concert unnecessarily.
Further, Faustmann playing the piano was an irrelevant parody. To be sure, the excellent emcees vastly amused many in the audience. And probably gave the non-classical listeners the entertainment they needed in-between the numbers.
The orchestral rendition of Scherzo in D Minor brought the image of a perky, jaunty, and mischievous 14-year-old to mind, Rachmaninoff having composed the piece when he was only 14. How Toledo’s baton led the MMCO to spiritedly and engagingly recreate the visual impression of the youngster!
Erratum: In my review “Chance Dazzles Audience,” clouds should have been chords. Marian Mayuga is a violinist, not a pianist.