Music-lovers will empathize with my justifiable pride for having been among the first to review Manila Symphony Orchestra concerts under Herbert Zipper, accompanied by modern dances choreographed by his wife Trundl Dubsky. Zipper conducted without scores. Incidentally, I treasure the thank-you notes Manila Symphony Society president Mrs. Trinidad Legarda sent me way back in 1952. (How that dates me!)
The dailies recently published the MSO repeat at Meralco Theater of the 1945 MSO concert directed by Zipper in the ruins of the Sta. Cruz Church. This consisted of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The extensive, authoritative article of Benito Legard Jr. on the MSO notes that present at the 1945 event were Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, Gen. and Mrs. Basilio Valdez and Archbishop Michael O’Doherty.
The MSO, one of the oldest orchestras in Asia, and at one time regarded the best in the region, was organized under Conductor Alexander Lippay in the year Benito Jr. was born. Zipper had Bernardino Custodio as assistant conductor.
Present at the Meralco Theater Concert “Music for Peace” under the auspices of the Ortigas Foundation, was 84-year old MSO survivor, violinist Pilar Benavides Estrada; the only other survivor, 96-year-old clarinetist Earl Smith, resides in California. At the repeat, a speech of Mrs. Trinidad Legarda was read by her granddaughter Katrina Legarda.
Herewith, pianist Amelita Guevarra gives her impressions of the concert: “The MSO was well-rehearsed, the strings especially. Kudos to Regina Medina. The Eroica was played immaculately clean. Conductor Arturo Molina gave cues very accurately. The New World Symphony was very exciting. Molina delineated the dynamics needed from the very pianissimo to a good forte, the different instruments, soloists and groupings, answering one another very clearly without losing the melodic line.”
Musicologists aver that Bach’s stirring Brandenburg Concertos are not concertos in the modern sense; that is, they are not for a solo instrument accompanied by the rest of the orchestra. Rather, they are more like conserti grossi in which several instruments have more important roles than the balance of the orchestra.
Thus, in the two Brandenburg Concertos played by the MSO under Conductor Arturo Molina, several instruments shone above the rest of the ensemble: Francisco Candelaria, solo flute 1, Billy del Rosario, solo flute2 and Gina Medina Perez, solo violin in Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major.
No other Bach composition could have sounded more vivacious, vibrant, spirited, robust, than Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major (Allegro-Allegro) as rendered with tremendous energy, vigor and ardor by the following instrumentalists apart from the orchestra proper: violinists Christian Tan, Kim Ng, Sara Gonzales; violists Danielle Lim, David Tagala and Vanessa Clemente; cellists John Anarico, Paul Natividad and Angelita Morio; Rey Singlao, bass player.
The concert opened with Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins featuring Benjamin Camay, solo violin 1 and Lourdes Miguel, solo violin 2.
Bach versus the Beatles
Although the Ayala Museum throbbed with the music of “Bach vs. the Beatles,” there was virtually no contest; the Beatles songs Lady Madonna, Michelle, A Hard Day’s Night were arranged by Peter Briener in the style of Bach, and thus hewed to the formal and classic. So did the rest.
Only the finale, “The Best of the Beatles” evinced a jazzy, utterly brisk pop quality as projected by the snappy drums and a wind instrument. The percussion, in particular, enhanced the rhythmic beat in so dynamic and infectious a manner with the rest of the ensemble following suit, that the listeners, including the players, tapped their feet. How many must have resisted the urge to dance!
Oddly enough, the names of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Gringo Starr) were not mentioned in the printed program; further “Yesterday” was not sung. Incidentally, Paul McCartney, the only surviving Beatle, composed the beautifully melodious “Yesterday.”
The full house was overwhelmingly responsive to the novel, original, unique, creative “Bach vs. the Beatles” which manifested the versatility, ambivalence and multi-faceted authority of Molina, as well as the rich talent of the solo instrumentalists.
MSO executive director Jeffrey Soleares, who arranged one of the Beatles songs, gave explanatory remarks before each section of the imminently successful contest wherein both Bach and the Beatles emerged as winners.