Glorious music-making by Maestro Oscar Yatco and prodigy Gutierrez
SUNDRY STROKES - Rosalinda L. Orosa () - November 26, 2005 - 12:00am
The concert "Ode to the Maestro, a Celebration of Life and Music" at the Philamlife auditorium last Oct. 22 marked the 75th birthday of Oscar G. Yatco. As explained in the printed notes, the orchestra was a "joint collaboration of musicians who have worked with the Maestro and in one way or another were inspired by his achievements and passion to his craft".

There were in fact familiar figures from the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra of which Yatco is the conductor laureate.

"Igorot Rhapsody"
by Angel Peña opened the program, and Yatco’s interpretation was thus far the best I had heard with its clear and sharp delineation of the ethnic elements converted into symphonic form, its sweeping Igorot melodies, its abrupt rhythms and changes in dynamics. I described Peña’s Rhapsody in a recent review, and I shall just add that the piece came to throbbing, pulsating life in all its color and vibrancy.

The joint performance of Yatco and Joaquin "Chino" Gutierrez in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E. Minor was a unique case of noblesse oblige, Yatco having extended considerable assistance to Chino through his and his parents’ stay in triumphant climax.

Tempestuous applause brought on three encores from Chino who made a considerable impact with his amazing talent, and charmed with his unself-consciousness which suggested total unawareness of his extraordinary gifts. The following encore pieces for unaccompanied violin were presumably a further indication of the heights he would scale in the future: Bach’s Partita No. 2 in E Minor, Paganini’s Caprice No. 13 in F Flat Major and Caprice No. 10 in G Minor also by Paganini.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor from the New World, is the most successful and the most frequently played of the composer’s symphonies. Also one of the most famous in music literature. As the towering conclusion to the concert, it evoked impressions of Dvorak’s visit to various parts of America, to its glittering cities and vast prairies.

Maestro Yatco’s rendition beckoned to a shimmering, brave new world, his ebullient and vigorous thrusts tracing the marvelous form and symmetry of the work. His interpretation gave expression to singularly fresh, spontaneous and fascinating ideas. The constant shifting of rhythms, the perennial returning to the original themes compelled attention throughout. Never had the Maestro’s cueing exuded more vitality, exuberance and expansiveness.

The resounding and prolonged applause was the audience’s fitting congratulatory gesture toward Maestro Yatco on his 75th birthday. The concert ended with a presentation to him by Manila Philharmonic Orchestra founder-conductor Rodel Colmenar of a plaque bearing a citation which Mr. Colmenar had requested me to write. The citation follows:
ODE to the Maestro
On the 75th birthday of Oscar C. Yatco, the Philippine world of music celebrates his prodigious and protean career as violin prodigy, recipient of the UP Teacher’s Diploma at age 16, as brilliant scholar at Juilliard and the Munich State Academy. To German audiences, he has presented the epitome of Filipino talent as winner of the only violin prize in a Hannover international tilt, as virtuoso soloist of major German Philharmonic Orchestras, as dynamic concert master of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and outstanding member of the Stross String Quartet. As eminent lifetime professor at the Hannover Hochschule, he has led hundreds of international students to achieve their fullest development.

He has thus strengthened Phil-German musical ties to the highest degree.

As the first Filipino music director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Yatco introduced contemporary masterpieces while honing the musicians’ skills in symphonic music and making the ensemble Asia’s best in his time. As Conductor Laureate of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Yatco continues – with tremendous power, vitality and artistic sensibility – to deepen Filipino appreciation for classic symphonies.

Indeed, Oscar C. Yatco is The Mighty Mite of Music.
Personal Notes
For the first time, the entire family of Mr. Yatco expressly flew from Germany to watch him conduct and be honored: his German wife Brigitte, his three daughters and their respective husbands and two little grandchildren, a boy and a girl. Hoisted onstage to greet the Maestro, they made a heartwarming scene.

On Nov. 29 and 30, Ang Tatay Kong Kalbo, Isagani R. Cruz’s adaptation of E. Ionesco’s "The Bald Soprano" will be staged by the FEU Theater Guild at the FEU auditorium.

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