Ochanine springs a surprise with his dynamic baton / The Russians are coming!


Maestro Olivier Ochanine, music director-principal conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, never fails to spring a surprise on the audience. From his diverse, widely-ranging repertoire, the recent CCP program consisted of exceedingly spirited, lively, robust, brusquely rhythmic, often overwhelming music, with the exception of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major which featured Ariel Sta. Ana as soloist.

At no other concert, as I can recall, was Ochanine’s wielding of the baton more dynamic. Again, with the exception of Mozart’s pure, classic music, the other selections were vividly descriptive. The opening tone poem Sensemaya by the Mexican Silvestre Revueltas was a “chant to kill a snake”. Angel Peña’s Igorot Rhapsody had the percussive, pounding rhythms of ethnic dances and songs. Respighi’s Fete Romane depicted martyrs being fed to savage beasts; pilgrims praying as they wearily dragged themselves, then, finally seeing the city of Rome, singing a hymn of jubilation; the tinkling of horse bells during a hunt; songs of love and a romantic serenade, the lilt of saltarellos (a skipping Italian dance), sounds of the mechanical organ; the call of a showman; hoarse and drunken cries. (The foregoing is the composer’s description of his own work.)

The heavily percussive Sensemaya, vividly Mexican in character, suggested a pagan, primitive rite. The tuba announced the basic theme, a muted solo trumpet took over, and the rest of the instruments joined in. Ochanine vigorously handled the drastically changing rhythms and syncopations, building to a powerful tension and an overwhelming climax, the sonorities and colors of orchestration surfacing vibrantly.

In Respighi’s Fete Romane and Peña’s Rhapsody, the percussions likewise took on a dominant role to complement and add even more volume to the already thunderous sounds. Further, the similarly dominant and excellent wood and brass winds reflected Ochanine’s long study of wind instruments, particularly the flute (as also the bass), and his performances with the UK Wind Ensemble. Indeed, at the concert, there was always the confident, assured rendition of the wind players. Ochanine was consistently in command, cueing each section, each soloist in precise, firm fashion as the tuttis gathered immensely electrifying momentum.

In both technical and interpretive aspects the orchestra was eloquently expressive, the dynamics shifting constantly from one extreme to the other, the rhythmic variation arrestingly dramatic.

A stark contrast to the contemporary works was the classic Concerto for Clarinet in A Major. Ariel Sta. Ana’s performance — fluid, fluent and crystalline clear while conveying prodigious skill and artistic sensitivity — explained his position as PPO’s principal clarinetist. There were no expected cadenzas but Sta. Ana’s singular rapport with the orchestra in all the movements — including the exquisitely lyrical adagio and the light-hearted rondo allegro — demonstrated that soloist and conductor were one in mind and temperament.

In response to prolonged applause, Sta. Ana rendered a slow, languid, beautifully melodious composition. After Ochanine interpreted Respighi’s masterpiece masterfully, he chose for his encore another Mexican work equally as fiery as the opening one, thus setting the audience on fire before it exited.

* * *

Letters have been exchanged between Ambassador to Russia Victor Garcia and Director of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Victor Sumsky, regarding the “expedition” to our country of 13 top Russian artists — eight men and five women. Arriving in mid-October and leaving on November 4, they will paint landscapes, sceneries, etc. in Vigan, Bohol, Cebu, Dapitan, Baler, Intramuros and possibly in Palawan.

Their works will be on exhibit as well as those on Russian themes. There will be a session with our prisoners as a humanitarian gesture. The Russian ambassador will host a farewell reception.

In-charge of the visit, which marks the 35th year of diplomatic ties between Russia and the PHL, is cultural icon Cecile Guidote Alvarez who is counting on the full cooperation of NCCA’s Jose Laderas Santos, Malou Jacob and Mariel Diaz.











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