Phl pianists: A summing up

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

The Curtis-trained Cecile Licad won the Levintritt Award at 19 — the youngest, the first woman and the second Asian to top the oldest, toughest and most prestigious tilt in America.

She has played with several major symphony orchestras in the US and London under the most distinguished baton wielders, and recently performed in Russia. She has received high praise from critics of the NY and Chicago Sun Times, among many others. Among Filipino pianists, her concert career abroad is the most extensive.

Cecile’s peer Raul Sunico has achieved an incredible feat unmatched here or abroad. The Newsweek magazine of 1997 named Horowitz, Cliburn, Agerich and Rachmaninoff himself as four “who dared to play the Rach 3”. Yet, at the CCP in 2003, Sunico played in succession four Rachmaninoff concertos without a score! When he recently performed here with Rowena Arrieta, he was still memorizing the last pages of a score he was to play with her. He memorized 300 pages of a score on a plane before a concert.

CCP President and dean of the UST Conservatory, he still manages to regularly concertize abroad, to display what his Russian professor at Juilliard Sacha Gorodnitzki called his “unusual gifts of lyricism, poetry and great brilliance.”

Curtis-trained Nena del Rosario Villanueva now seldom plays in public but when she does, she relives her glory days as the ten-year-old who rendered two full-length concertos with the MSO under Herbert Zipper. She has performed with the NY Philharmonic, the CBS Symphony, the NHK under Seiji Ozawa. In masterclasses, Horowitz considered Nena his favorite pupil.

Reynaldo Reyes, premiere prix winner of the Paris Conservatory’s Thibaud-Long contest, stands out for his unique, distinctive programming. From his tremendously extensive repertoire, he selects for a recital works of only one composer or of several composers from a single country. (I have attended an all-Bach and an all-Spanish recital of his.) Reyes has concertized in Europe, England, Canada and the US. Here are excerpts from random reviews: “Phenomenal . . . He was interrupted in mid-concert with a spontaneous ovation.” The Washington Post commented: “His playing of modern music was magnificent.”

For the last several years, Reyes has teamed up with eminent concertist Ingrid S. Santamaria for their Romantic Music Journey throughout the country, undergoing hazards and perilous inconveniences while introducing romantic composers. Ingrid plays as soloist without a score; Rey takes the orchestra part.

Jiovanney Emmanuel Cruz, like Villanueva, rarely plays in public but when he does, he overwhelms his listeners. Arguably, he is the most internationally awarded of our pianists. In a contest in Sicily in 1999, the entire audience walked out because it thought Jiovanney should have garnered the first, not the second prize.

Cristine Coyiuto, whom I have called the “pianists’ pianist”, is admired by Conductor Helen Quach for her “heroic nobility, artistry, poetry and brilliant virtuosity”, calling her “a great pianist”.

Other remarkable pianists include concertist-composer Manuel Maramba, and younger ones, many of them virtuosos or virtuosos-in-the-making: Oliver Salonga, Rudolf Golez, Greg Zuniega, who studied at the Moscow Conservatory and played in Russia’s concert halls earlier than Licad; Aima Labra Makk, Aries Caces, pianist-conductor; Mariel Ilusorio, Charisse Baldoria, Albert Tiu, Victor Asuncion, Ariel Dechosa and not the least, the blind brilliant Alberto Ibay.

Mary Anne Espina and Najib Ismail are excellent assisting artists and, therefore, much in demand.

Rowena Arrieta, NY-based, was the only laureate (fifth prize winner) in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky International Competition. In 1984, she played at the CCP with her Moscow Conservatory professor Yevgeny Malinin, 32 years her senior at the time. Her concerts in Europe have drawn raves.

Leading even much younger pianists is Lorenzo Medel, 16, who has topped all major local competitions. His rendition of “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” was chosen by the Regional Environmental Center of Europe for its Green Pack multimedia educational set. Lorenzo plays concertos with amazing ease and sensitivity, and will render another with the MSO under Arturo Molina on Jan. 12, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at the Philamlife.

Ma. Regina Montesclaros played Shostakovitch’s Festive Overture and Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2  in C Minor at her last concert with the MSO under Molina.

Fifteen-year-old Denise Faith L. See interpreted Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 in A Major with the MSO under Jeffrey Solares. She has won prizes in several local competitions.

Six-year-old Andrei Ave played the first movement of Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D Major with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra under Rodel Colmenar without missing a beat or a note. Already winner of two international prizes, Andrei has been invited to play at NY’s Carnegie Hall this April.


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