The magnificent Quach / Suzuki confab opens

Returning after 17 years, Helen Quach conducted the Manila Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Leonora Overture, Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor, with the outstanding pianist Cristine Coyiuto as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in E Minor at the CCP main theater.

What an evening of magnificent music-making it turned out to be!

Brisk, precise, incisive, with more than a trace of tension in her baton-wielding, Quach impelled the MSO to rise to the challenge. Her emphatic cueing led to an excited anticipation of what textures and timbers to expect. She used no score except in the concerto — in deference to the pianist though not a page was turned thus exhibiting her mastery of the music which she knew as well as the palm of her hand.

Sensitively gifted, passionately inspired and possessed of a remarkable memory besides, she illustrated the observation that an orchestra is only as good as its conductor. Indeed, the MSO sounded like an entirely different ensemble with its robust tones, forceful accents and rhythmic drive. The furious, cohesive bowing of the strings midway through the Overture compelled utmost attention; the towering tuttis of the finale, sparkling and brilliant, electrified.

Coyiuto burst upon the musical scene with a powerful chordal entrance and henceforth the conductor’s keen musicality complemented the pianist’s own. In the cadenza, Coyiuto infused the pianissimo passages with a liquid quality that conveyed an almost haunting beauty.

The concerto acquired an ineffable freshness as Coyiuto put heart and soul into every phrase and measure, caressing the notes with a distinctive gracefulness of arms and hands that must be the envy of most pianists. Through sheer instinct, combined with formidable training, Coyiuto revealed the secrets of the piano, her shimmering, luminous tones plumbing the depths of the concerto while gaining in power for the massive, thunderous, climax. Quach’s support was splendid in matters of dynamics and expressivity. Coyiuto’s encore was a charming little piece also by Grieg.

Tchaikovsky’s symphony, with its fate motif binding the movements together, is rich in emotional content, exquisitely flowing lyricism — particularly the second movement where a poignant melody is played by the horn and joyfully picked up by the strings — surging rhythms and eloquent solos creating a glorious bristling masterpiece. In interpreting the Symphony, Quach glowingly stressed its lambent lyricism, contrasting this with intensely dramatic flourishes which were played with fiery vigor and vibrance, the fortissimos blazing.

After the mighty symphony was mightily rendered, a standing ovation ensued. Earlier, Coyiuto, laden with huge bouquets, took several curtain calls. Quach had her share of bouquets, the bravos and applause lusty and prolonged.

Carlyn Manning, Manila Symphony Society president, welcomed the audience prior to the concert, briefly referring to MSO’s colorful history which began in 1926 under Alexander Lippay. Herbert Zipper took over, followed by several Filipino conductors, chiefly Bernardino Custodio and Oscar Yatco. MSO’s past guest conductors and visiting artists were some of the world’s most celebrated.

After a long hiatus following WWII, St. Scholastica’s College of Music Dean Sr. Mary Placid recruited talented young musicians to form MSO II, with Basilio Manalo and Arturo Molina as tutors, the instrumentalists’ forbear being clearly the original MSO.

Helen Quach’s visit, under the auspices of the MSS, gave new inspiration, incentive and impetus to the youthful MSO. May it continue forging ahead to achieve larger goals.
* * *
The 3rd Suzuki Music Conference, May 3-7 will be at the La Salle Greenhills Campus. Founder-organizer of the Philippine Suzuki Association, based at the Greenhills Music Studio, is Prof. Carmencita Arambulo who brought the Suzuki Method here in 1982. Through her efforts, Suzuki teachers are all over the country. The method, developed by the German-trained Japanese Shinichi Suzuki, is a system of learning music on the basis that every child’s talent can be developed.

Eminent lecturers from the US, Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Belgium will be joined by Prof. Arambulo, her son Ariel, recipient of the Suzuki Teacher Development Grant in violin, and PSA v-p Caroline Kleiner-Cheng. The gala concert on May 7 at the CCP main theater will feature former Suzuki students including the brilliant 15-year old Elielle Viaje, now a scholar at Vienna’s Prayner Conservatory.








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