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Opinion

O. Ochanine electrifies in engrossing, spirited program / Toledo work in NY premiere

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

Conducting for the first time in the acoustically excellent Philamlife Auditorium, Olivier Ochanine performed even more impressively, with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra playing under his baton an engrossing, spirited, daunting program: Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Orchestra, Nielsen’s Aladdin Suite and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances.

The lively, fresh, spontaneous music of Shostakovich strongly catered to popular taste, its melodies in relatively simple orchestration, the score danceable in predominantly waltz and polka rhythms. Indeed, Ochanine’s baton led to such sweeping verve that the listeners — or at least this listener — had a desire, in Milton’s words, to trip the light fantastic.

Further, the orchestra members conveyed immense enthusiasm in rendering the Suite.

The succeeding work by the Danish Nielsen was even more vigorous and vibrant, Maestro Ochanine wielding the baton over the challenging, robust passages with magnetism.

Nielsen’s composition began with a Festival March, followed by Aladdin’s Dream and Dance of the Morning Mist, the former arrestingly brisk; the latter, richly descriptive, filled with the shimmering beauty of its tonal hues. This reviewer being conversant with the dance idiom, the score for the Hindu Dance did not contain the slightest vestiges of what might be construed as Hindu; the music for the Chinese Dance did not sound Chinese at all. Both dances, and presumably the Dance of the Prisoners and the Negro Dance, were the ingenious, fascinating outcome of the composer’s innovative and creative imagination.

The revitalizing power of the concert audibly increased as it progressed, the Maestro remaining in striking command throughout Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Musicologists have decreed that “the work was not intended by the composer as dance music, but rather as music inspired by the dance.” Symphonic Dances, the composer’s last major work, seems atypical. Therein, Rachmaninoff momentarily veers away from Romanticism. Almost totally. Although structurally solid and formal, the composition carries with it copious atonalities and dissonances. Here, one misses the exquisite lyricism Rachmaninoff is associated with.

In the final Allegro Vivace, the indefatigable Ochanine, gathering momentum and force beyond belief — the tutti filled with blaring brasses and pounding percussions — reached a fiery, awesomely shattering climax, electrifying the audience.

In varying degrees, the program’s three compositions opened and closed thunderously. After each selection, Ochanine enjoined individual members of the orchestra to take a bow, while applauding them himself, thus demonstrating his own gratification with their outstanding performance.

The audience, for its part, was lusty and fervid in its approbation of the feisty Maestro. In sum, the concert eloquently proved his infallible instinct or intuition, as well as his thoroughly trained capacity and talent for re-creating and interpreting each composer’s intention. The program, entitled “Orchestral Fireworks”, no less than the encore, had Ochanine fittingly and dramatically setting the full house on fire.

Toledo’s work in NY premiere

The composition “Mga Sulyap sa Simbahan ng Quiapo mula sa Kalye Echague” (Glimpses of Quiapo Church from Echague Street), by Filipino composer-conductor Josefino Chino Toledo, had its premiere Sept. 22 at the Lincoln Center in New York City. The concert was the opening of the 20th anniversary season of the famed New Juilliard Ensemble.

Conducted by Joel Sachs, the program also featured the works of Andrew Ford (Australia), Menachem Zur (Israel), Du Yun (China/US) and Chinary Ung (Cambodia/US).

The New Juilliard Ensemble conducted by Sachs opened its three-concert series in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Conductor of the Manila Community Orchestra, Toledo currently is the executive director of Miriam College Center for Applied Music and a full professor of music composition and theory at the University of the Philippines. As a conductor, he is noted for premiering works of Filipino composers, as well as other Asian composers. He has conducted concerts in Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and China. Mr. Toledo’s own compositions are regularly performed in international festivals, concerts, and recitals around the world. His work Sulyap, composed in 2004, is for 18 instrumentalists. He includes a Philippine ritual chant in the piece as a way to mingle the old with new materials.

For the composer, glimpses of Quiapo Church evoke past memories, wants, needs, and hopes.

ALADDIN SUITE AND RACHMANINOFF

ALLEGRO VIVACE

ANDREW FORD

APPLIED MUSIC

CHINARY UNG

DANCE

NEW JUILLIARD ENSEMBLE

OCHANINE

RACHMANINOFF

SYMPHONIC DANCES

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