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Opinion

O. Ochanine, Sofya Gulyak: More than Elegantly Brahms/ Regina: A phenomenal pianist

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

Even when Brahms was at his prime musicologists did not rank him with Bach or Beethoven. Yet, his best works, among them his Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major, is beyond the competence of most pianists. Sofya Gulyak, the first woman to win first prize at London’s 16th Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009, breezed through the Concerto, encapsulating its breadth and depth, and rendering its most tortuous passages with aplomb.

Already the opening allegro constituted a considerable challenge, but the pianist hurdled it with grace, vivacity, power and moving expression.

Maestro Olivier Ochanine, wielding the baton over the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, encompassed the form and substance of the work, firmly holding his own through the long concerto, from the initial allegro to still another allegro, this latter played vigorously and passionately by Gulyak, to the melodious andante and the finale, Ochanine grasping the piece’s vast structure while conveying its vitality.

Bristling with energy and exuberance, Gulyak was always in full command. The concert concluded with the thunderous volume the pianist’s chords created — in perfect time with the orchestra’s own tumultuous tuttis.

Brahms’ four symphonies are regarded his most “decisive and eloquent”. In the Fourth in A Minor, passages are often intercepted by sweeping melodies, some of these reminiscent of those in the Concerto just performed. Reflecting the symphony’s clarity and balance, the Maestro produced in the final movement an overpowering impact with the winds, particularly the brasses, playing in magisterial fashion, the symphony ending in fiery ardor.

Billed as “Elegantly Brahms”, the concert at the Philamlife auditorium was infinitely much more than elegant, what glorious music-making it was! Prolonged applause called back Ochanine and Gulyak repeatedly to the stage, with the latter playing a devilishly bravura encore.

*      *      *

At the junior recital of Regina P. Montesclaros in the Philamlife auditorium, Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, to contemporary ears, may have sounded rather dull and tepid although Regina played all its “well-tempered” contra-punta devices in exceedingly fine fashion.

Ben Tupas must have used his own extraordinary dexterity as the measuring rod for his composition Toccata, its runs, arpeggios and chordal passages, posing a tremendous challenge even to the most virtuosic pianist. And the typically showy and bombastic Liszt did not spare such a pianist either in La Leggierezza which, despite its title suggesting lightness, was anything but light.

In Prokofiev’s own distinctive manner, his Sonata in A Major, through its four movements, taxed likewise the performer’s technical agility. Even the slow waltz which could hardly be regarded lyrical, was daunting.

Regina played the most complex and florid passages with astounding swiftness and nimbleness. In sum, the predominantly percussive piece were a supreme test of technical skill which Regina passed beyond measure.

Musicologists agree that orchestration was not Chopin’s forte, with the piano often overshadowing the ensemble. In Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Regina had the opportunity to reveal her lyrical expressivity in varying degrees, with conductor Herminigildo Ranera drawing from the UST Symphony Orchestra its utmost resources to project rhythmic force and flowing melodious passages, the latter so characteristic of Chopin’s inherent gift.

It is entirely within the realm of the possible for Regina, in future, to match the masterful technique of her mentor, Dr. Raul Sunico, if not his power or, incredibly retentive memory. Having brilliantly, indeed, astonishingly, risen to the formidable demands of her program, the young Regina, to my mind, may already be regarded a phenomenal pianist.

SSC commencement March 22

St. Scholastica College, headed by Sr. Mary Thomas Prado, OSB, will hold its 81st college commencement exercises at the PICC on March 22, 3 p.m. Board chairman Dr. Jose S. Sandejas will confer the PAX award on Alma Quintans-Kern.

A MAJOR

A MINOR

ALMA QUINTANS-KERN

B FLAT MAJOR

BEN TUPAS

C MAJOR

CONCERTO NO

DR. JOSE S

DR. RAUL SUNICO

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