Ochanine conveys eloquent dynamics in Wagner’s works/ Tenor Espiritu sings Feb. 6

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

The young conductor that Olivier Ochanine is, he must be very sure of himself to audaciously take on Wagner, the greatest opera composer of his time, and the creative genius who “emancipated” those before him, setting up his own formidable, daunting standards of composition.

It was apparent that Maestro Ochanine, wielding the baton over the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, had thoroughly and conscientiously studied Wagner’s scores. Reverentially approaching the brief, three-minute “Prelude to Lohengrin”, Ochanine rendered it as a passionate drama, drawing the fullest power from the ensemble to convey the desired brio and bravura in the thunderous passages presaging tragedy.

Ochanine revealed himself a master of dynamics in “Siegfried Idyll”, particularly in the treatment of the diverse gradations of pianissimo reflecting the varying degrees of love and romance Wagner professed for his young bride Cosima.

Evoking peace in the opening theme, the singing of a bird in the following theme, and a lullaby in the third — the orchestra interpreted all these in the gentlest, most lambent manner, thus descriptively complementing the underlying, dominant expression of love.

The strings were the primary instruments which enunciated the composer’s message of love through their tightly cohesive, smoothly flowing, languid performance — the players’ skill honed by the Maestro — while enhancing and enriching the over-all orchestral interpretation.

Ryan Cayabyab’s “New Work for Violin and Orchestra, played by soloist Dino Decena and assisted by the PPO under Maestro Ochanine, was unlyrical. Being atonal, it had no melodic lines the listener could sing or hum, or carry in his mind as he went home.

Almost inaudible cadenzas as well as soft violin passages accompanied by a similarly almost inaudible string section were often so long and extended that they nearly bordered on tedium, relieved only occasionally by robust, powerful tuttis.

“New Work” was highly innovative, original and imaginative; perhaps in time it will be regarded as a worthy addition to the repertoire of contemporary works, both foreign and local. Cayabyab’s composition was worlds apart, and a drastic departure from the pieces of Tapales, Molina, De Leon et al who composed tonal music in an entirely different vein.

Ochanine graciously joined in the hearty applause. This reviewer’s reaction was not quite in accord with the public response which was so lusty, Decena and the PPO had to repeat a brief excerpt from the work.

Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B Flat Minor (“Spring”) vibrantly represented the various seasons which sometimes overlapped. Wielding the baton with consistent briskness and precision, Ochanine molded phrases that captured Schumann’s poignant beauty or glowing luster. The movements were eloquently descriptive, the delineations vividly differentiating andante un poco maestoso, allegro molto vivace, larghetto and scherzo from each other. The horns, flute and bassoon players, their respective skills likewise honed by the Maestro, attracted attention.

Summing up, Wagner and Schumann were most impressively served by Maestro Ochanine who encapsulated the magisterial grandeur of the former and the romantic fervor of the latter.

*      *      *

Internationally acclaimed Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu will perform in a concert entitled “The Poet Speaks” at the Ayala Museum on Feb. 6, 7 pm, as part of the MCO Foundation Music Series. Much sought-after Najib Ismail will be the assisting pianist.

Espiritu’s most recent success was his performance as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Theatre St. Gallen in Switzerland. The tenor regularly sings at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Opera Fuoco, Piccolo Teatro di Milano, Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, Tel Aviv’s Israeli Opera, and several major opera houses in the US.

A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, Espiritu was grand prize winner of the George London opera contest in 2009, recipient of the La Scala award in Vienna’s Velvedere Vocal Competition, second prize winner at the Metropolitan Operea National Council Audition, among other distinctions.

In “The Poet Speaks”, the famed tenor will perform Schumann’s Song Cycle Liederkreis consisting of songs by Liszt based on Petrarch’s love sonnets, and various operatic arias.

Part of the concert proceeds will go to various charity projects.











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