Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Music on a Monday

Oliver Salonga in concert last night at the Ayala Museum lobby. He began with something very modern or 20th century (it had atonal and dissonant qualities), Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata in E-flat Minor, Op. 26, then moved without a break to Rachmaninoff's Etude Tableaux, Op. 33 and ended with the more traditional sounds of Franz Liszt's Reminiscences de Norma du Bellini. The Scarlatti sonata that he played as an encore really gripped my heart. It's the sort of music I like to cry along with, but it was a happy night so no tears, except for the thunderstorm that raged outside. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

From boy to big man of the piano, we've watched him grow to even teach us how the Rachmaninoff etudes "are not like Chopin etudes that target a specific technique for each etude. The etudes teach you to apply different techniques based on what's written with emphasis on the actual application rather than a mastery of a certain technical device." Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Oli triumphant. His friends from his Makiling years still like to call him "Berong," short for Keroberong or a Filipinized version of "Care Bear" because of his chubbiness. He's a graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Laguna. He's winding up his Ph.D. studies in piano performance at the University of Southern California under Norman Krieger. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

At almost any recital in any venue, an appreciative audience that includes neurosurgeon and art patron Joven Cuanang and sculptor Julie Lluch likes to have a moment with the musical artist to hold his hand or hug him. As an aside, Julie is teaching herself to play the piano after she had her upright at home tuned up. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul." - Unknown

"...(M)usicians are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience's soul. Musicians are beings who have tasted life's nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another's heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes."-David Ackert, Los Angeles Times

The unknown author of that quote and Mr. Ackert I must thank profusely and publicly for giving me a good shove so I can recall in a semi-tranquil mood the times the musical "guns of August" fired and caused a pleasurable trembling in my soul. I've used an Ackert quote in a past blog about pianist Cecile Licad, but I keep coming back to it.

There's almost a "near-suicidal" quality to a true musician's playing. It's in the way they give their all to an elusive moment that will quickly become a memory for the listener unless everything, every nuance of a note or a gesture, is caught in an audio-video recording. Otherwise, there is nothing more exciting, more electrifying than being present in a live performance. Especially if it is someone like Oliver who I first watched at his farewell recital at the then PCIBank's Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati before he first left for his undergrad music studies in the States.

I've seen him at a tertulia at Odette Alcantara's Heritage House in Blue Ridge, Quezon City, where he attempted to do the folk ditty "Pamulinawen" as his encore piece. After repeated mistakes, he apologized and instead played a longer and more difficult Chopin piece. This has led to my impression that Oliver doesn't take the easier path. Gusto niya talagang pahirapan ang kanyang sarili.

And it's good for him. We, the audience, also benefit. I've also watched him play at the Baguio Country Club ballroom, at the former Kiss the Cook Gourmet at UP Village to kick off the Pablo Tariman-initiated Intimate Concert Series, at Abelardo Hall last year and then last night at a museum. Oliver is a life force, indeed, like the backdrop of paintings by Jana Benitez. Unsolicited advice from a concerned tita: Lose some of the weight. It may keep your stamina up.

The pictures tell of my latest experience of him better.

Thanks for putting this recital together, Ray Sison of ROS Music Center, Pablo Tariman of Music News and the Ayala Museum for opening up the lobby space on a Monday and a holiday (yesterday was the advanced celebration of National Heroes Day). Don't ever be discouraged by slight weather disturbances or the challenge of producing and marketing a recital.

When I think of contemporary heroes, politicians never cross my consciousness or my radar. It's always the authentic artists and tireless cultural workers who do. They are the ones who take the greater risks and make a nation truly proud and great. And people like me, a mere music fan, are grateful. Once again, Oliver, bravo!
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