Four Seasons become two; Ochanine’s finale dazzles / UNESCO praises CD Alvarez

SUNDRY STROKES - The Philippine Star

The transfer of venue from the CCP main auditorium to the Meralco Theater made music lovers go through terribly congested traffic, particularly because being Friday, traffic was heaviest. Thus, music lovers (this reviewer included) missed the first half of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”; Concerto No. 1 in E Major (Spring) and Concerto No.  in G Minor (Summer) featuring solo violinists Ruth and Jonathan Livioco, respectively, assisted by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under Maestro Olivier Ochanine.

Their performance was heard only on the second half of the “Four Seasons”: Concerto No. 3 in F Major (Autumn) and Concerto No. 4 in  F Minor (Winter). The soloists demonstrated poise, assurance and competence, Ruth’s violin seemed rather lacking in volume; Jonathan’s sounded bigger.

Their cadenzas were clear, precise and vigorous, the very fast-paced passages characterized by brio.

The “Four Seasons” is a highly regarded baroque masterpiece of Vivaldi and the PPO under Ochanine’s baton eloquently stressed the evocative and descriptive changes of climate and the environs in each concerto.

Vivaldi was known as “the Paganini of the 18th century” presumably because he upgraded and developed the technical resources of the violin to the fullest extent in his time.

The PPO is described in the printed program as “the country’s leading orchestra and is widely regarded as one of the top musical ensembles in the Asia-Pacific region”.

Its rendition of Dvorak’s Symphony  No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World”, as conducted by Ochanine, was tremendous; indeed, dazzling. The composition has often been played in past concerts. In the PPO’s interpretation, the percussion, string, brass and woodwind sections collectively and individually fulfilled to the utmost the technical and interpretive demands of each movement. In the Adagio, the melody played by the cellos was thunderously accented by the percussions, the arresting monumental effect setting the tone of the entire symphony, with every movement more overwhelming than the last.

In the Largo, the woodwinds and brasses, interacting with the strings and the solo English horn, revealed  the excellence of the instrumentalists whose skills had been further developed through rigorous training and rehearsals under Ochanine.

In the Scherzo  Molto Vivace, the brisk percussive  rhythms which  electrified the audience were followed by the contrasting lyricism of the strings. The theme of the opening movement reverberated in modified but clearly recognizable form, ending in a sparkling Scherzo.

In the finale, Allegro con fuoco, the orchestral sections again reiterated the immensely strenuous effort they had earlier manifested to express the dark, brass, roughly-hewn influences from the New World, refined by Dvorak before absorbing them in his symphony to create the glorious climax under the Maestro’s baton.

After the prodigious conductorial stint, which brought on even mightier tutti surges, a prolonged, deafening applause ensued.

*   *   *


The UNESCO Director-General

Dec. 19, 2013

Ms. Cecile Guidote-Alvarez





Dear Ms Guidote-Alvarez,

I wish to thank you most sincerely for enabling the Earthsavers UNESCO Artists for Peace to perform at UNESCO Headquarters on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3 December last.

Although I regret being unable to share this special occasion with you due to commitments abroad, I know that the spirit and talent of this unique troupe left an unforgettable impression on the audience. This is no surprise: having had the good fortune of seeing the Earthsavers perform in Manila. I am privy to the emotional nature of this experience. By unlocking the talent that lies in every individual and tackling global issues such as climate change, the Ensemble gives us a generous lesson in humanity, and testifies to the power of the arts and creativity to change mindsets and raise awareness. I know that the expedition of the Ensemble  to Paris would not have been possible without your personal engagement and energy, for which I wish to express my renewed appreciation.

Your presence here in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan was all the more timely as a gesture to honour the victims of this devastating natural disaster. I wish to assure you once again of UNESCO’s determination to play a role in the recovery efforts underway. We have submitted three projects to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Strategic Response Plan, respectively on support  to the recovery of local media and humanitarian information capacity, psycho-social support to secondary schools; and, the rebuilding of ocean observing systems and training on Standard Operating  Procedures. Beyond these projects, we pledge to work with the Government and other partners to stand by the Philippines in strengthening the resilience of communities in the longer term.

The victims of this natural and human tragedy will be remembered during this holiday season, for which I extend to you, as well as to Commissioner Alvarez, my warmest wishes for peace and good health.

Most cordially.                      

Yours sincerely,

Irina Bokova


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