Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

A Musical duo like no other

Amor S. Hernando - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - In this 23rd RPCJT tour, Dr. Santamaria and Prof. Reyes were awestruck by the conducive atmosphere and the hospitality showered on them by the missionaries of the Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple at V. Rama Avenue last July 4.  The hosts were Venerable Yung Ling, deputy abbess of Fo Guang Shan Philippines; Venerable You Lin, Fr. Benny, BLIA Advisor Ben Tan and Blia President Mdm. Susan Tan.

The audience consisted mostly of music majors from the University of Southern Philippines led by Prof. Magno Aquino, Cebu Normal University through Profs. Naila Beltran and Darlene Yap; Mr. Jandel Cabasura of St. Paul Choir, Dr. Maje Purino of the University of San Carlos and some members of the Cebu Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO).

Theirs is a case of “like meets like,” defying the law of magnetic attraction that like poles repel each other.

Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria met Prof. Reynaldo Reyes when she was 10 years old. Her mother Pilar B. Sala, wanted her daughter to be introduced to an already stellar performer at age 17, just having graduated his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music. The duo’s subsequent encounters did not come as an accident.  Having resided in Manila after her marriage, she would faithfully take up lessons with him during summer vacations when he came home from the US.

She has regarded her all piano mentors with awe.  “They are like gods to me, and I, humbly crouched at their feet.”

In all those years, she painstakingly wrote notes and compiled these as part of her memorabilia, valuing all those tips, comments and insights on how to play certain passages with fluidity and artistry.

“I knew that she was taking notes during the lessons,” Prof. Reyes laughs, amazed, “but I did not know she kept all those until now.”

Upon beholding the bound volumes, he jokingly said that he does not remember the content of the lessons.

But how can he not remember? Prof. Reyes possesses, as it were, an uncommon eidetic memory.  He can talk about a variety of topics, anything and everything under the sun. No one tires of hearing the professor talk.   He is quick-witted and full of humor. Despite the laurels he has received, he is never feisty or abrasive in his manner of speaking.  No one senses an element of sophistication in him. Lighthearted in temperament and easy to please, nothing seems to be a stressor to him.  Each year, he keeps learning new pieces, especially those that are rarely heard. Annually, aside from the RPCJT stint, he would perform at the CCP and in other Manila schools who are offering music as a degree. During this visit, he is giving master classes at the Philippine Women’s University on Saturdays.

No wonder Dr. Santamaria alludes to Prof. Reyes as the best pianist in the world.  In Paris, he won the much-coveted Premier Prix du Piano and Deuxième Prix de Musique de Chambre. He was a winner in many international contests, notably the International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy and the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Internationale Piano Competition in Paris. He concertized in Germany, France, Italy, England, Russia, Hungary, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and the United States. To date, no Filipino pianist has played all of Chopin’s twenty-four Etudes during a single recital or Chopin’s Preludes in one other single recital.

Like her mentor, Santamaria was also precocious as a young pianist.  At age 10, she was presented as the orchestral soloist on her premiere piano recital performing Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto.    At 17, she performed in her graduation recital Bortkiewicz’s Concerto in B Flat, Op. 16 for the degree of Bachelor of Music.  She then left for the Juilliard School of Music in New York City to take advanced lessons under the distinguished Josef Raieff. The year of 1962 found her performing with various orchestras in Manila after having won first prize in the Jeunesse Musicales Piano Competition in Search for a Talent; and in 1964, a second prize winner in the National Philharmonic Orchestra’s First Nationwide Piano Competition.

Despite the painful bruises he gets every time he falls, Prof. Reyes radiantly rises almost instantaneously so as not to miss playing his part. He loves to traverse the country from north to south, never minding the inconveniences and hazards along the way.  The duo had trudged up the Cordilleras and gone as far south as Zamboanga in an effort to reach the countryside, while also sharing some performances in some cities in Asia and the United States.

Before each concert, Prof Reyes gives the audience a brief backgrounder about the Romantic Period. Afterwards, he also entertains questions at the end of the concert in an open forum. He loves interacting with the audience especially on how classical music nudges the brain to produce neurons to stimulate human intelligence. The RPCJT journey has been conceived to spread the music of the masters to students, teachers, humanities scholars, retired religious, elderly citizens and music lovers.  In some remote areas where the duo performed, people confessed it was the first time they have ever heard a live piano concerto presented in an intimate setting.

Dr. Santamaria plays the solo part on the first piano and Prof. Reyes assumes the orchestral part on the second piano.  Although it can be said that the second piano is not capable to match an orchestra’s richness and variety of tonal colors, or overwhelming climaxes, it nevertheless doubles the auditory pleasures as it balances and interacts with the first piano (Orosa, Philippine Star).

Having mounted over 500 concerts since 2001, the duo is agog over performing in this 23rd RPCJT tour which includes 17 venues.  For this journey, the sponsors are given a  choice of two of four concertos:  Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Minor,  Liszt ‘s Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor . (FREEMAN)

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