Starweek Magazine

A Dream Fulfilled In Music

- Michele T. Logarta -

When Spaniard Alonso Halffter visited the centuries-old Baclayon church in Bohol more than a year ago, his eye fell on a lonely, dusty pipe organ that had fallen into disrepair, long silenced by time. The organ, installed in the 1800s, was a treasure, one among the relics, artifacts and other antiquities that date back to the time when the church was built in the early years of the Spanish colonial period. Halffter left Bohol with the dream to restore the organ to its former glory. Even then, he could hear the organ playing, and he knew exactly who would give the first concert once it was repaired and restored.

Who was this Spanish gentleman determined to wave his magic wand over the old pipe organ? Halffter was no ordinary tourist visiting Bohol; he is the husband of Patsy Zobel of the illustrious and wealthy Zobel clan, and son of two esteemed musicians of Spain, the distinguished conductor and composer Maestro Cristobal Halffter and pianist Marita Halffter.

“It was his dream to restore the organ, and have his parents – who he greatly admires – give the first concert when the organ was ready. Both Marita and Cristobal play beautifully on the organ,” Patsy Zobel-Halffter, daughter of Jaime and Bea Zobel, recounts. “When Alonso approached his father with this proposal, Cristobal immediately agreed, but he asked if he might also be allowed to join in a concert together with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He had good memories of when he conducted in the CCP in 1970s. He was very insistent...he said he would love to conduct there again.”

This December, the Halffters are visiting the Philippines, and Maestro Halffter will be conducting the PPO for the first time in the Bravo España gala on Dec. 5, 8 p.m. at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo. Presented in cooperation with the Spanish Embassy and Lifestyle Asia, the concert will be highlighted by the Philippine premiere of Maestro Halffter’s Preludio Para Madrid 92 for choir and orchestra. The program will also offer the following pieces: Los Esclavos Felices by Juan Crisostomo Arriaga, considered the Spanish Mozart; El sombrero de tres picos (Segunda suite) and Noches en los jardines de España (piano and orchestra) by Manuel De Falla; and Preludio de La Revoltosa by Ruperto Chapi, best known for his zarzuelas (of which La Revoltosa is probably his best loved work).

Bravo España is the fourth concert of the PPO 2008-09 Series that offers the music of selected countries around the world. Bravo España features pianist Rudolf Golez and the renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers who will perform in Maestro Halffter’s Preludio Para Madrid 92, written for the inauguration of Madrid in 1992 as the European Capital of Culture. “Culture is only possible with ‘Liberty, Peace and Justice’, which are the first words of my work,” Maestro Halffter explains. “Then comes a fandango, a folk courtship dance, to celebrate it.”

Maestro Halffter has been honored for his compositions that “combine the spirit of Spain and avant-garde techniques.” The spirit of Spain does exist, Maestro Halffter asserts. “I do my utmost to find it, without forgetting that I’m aware of the time in which I live. The traditional ties in my work are a product of that feeling of Spanishness that grows in me, when I feel proud of Spanish tradition at its greatest heights. It always has a special place in my work, developing within it and becoming enveloped in the nuances and colors of today’s vanguard.”

“This first contact with the PPO in December is very important for me, as I have very close ties to the Philippines, from a strictly familiar point of view and because of my interest in a country with such a long Spanish tradition, “ he says. “Its capacity to co-exist with such different traditions, which with persistent effort are still alive today, after so much time, makes me think that the Philippine spirit of feeling regarding the past, for its roots, promises an encouraging future for culture in general. I have a few days of work among you all ahead of me, and not as a mere spectator, but as an active part of this meeting, and I am very excited about this, knowing beforehand that it will be a great success.”

Maestro Halffter is one of Spain’s most eminent conductors and musicians. To daughter-in-law Patsy, he is much more. “I definitely could have never wished for a more wonderful father-in-law. Cristobal has always been so kind, and so open, and so patient with me. He is a highly intelligent man, and extremely gifted in music. I appreciate what an incredible experience it has been for me to be allowed to participate in the creative process of a man I would happily call a genius. Cristobal’s truly amazing talent and huge heart make him an amazing artist and human being.”

After Bravo España, the Halffters will fly to Bohol to perform in the resplendent setting of the Baclayon Church, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Maestro Halffter and his wife Marita, both very good organ players, have prepared a mixed Spanish-Filipino repertoire for this concert.

The Halffters’ visit to the Philippines – for both the PPO Bravo Espana concert and the Baclayon church organ project – thus brings to fruition the efforts of Patsy and her husband Alfonso. For Patsy, Bravo España is a “lovely way to reunite Philippine and Spanish cultures… Being half-Filipina and half-Spanish, I always feel that I have the best of both worlds, and I love being able to help bring Filipino culture out to Europe, and Spanish culture back to the Philippines. Both my husband and my parents-in-law also feel very strongly that Spanish-Filipino ties should not be lost, and that through music this can be achieved.”

For more information on Bravo España, call the CCP box office at 832-3704 or Ticketworld at 891-9999.

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