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Filipino young musicians triumph in Mozart’s territory

The three-year old Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) under the baton of Jeffrey Solares won second place in the string orchestra category of the recently concluded 11th Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival in Vienna.

The competition was held on July 6 at the famous Golden Hall of the Musikverein considered one of the best concert halls in the world.

The concert of winners took place on July 11. 

“We all feel blessed just being here in Europe and having this opportunity to play in all these wonderful venues. Winning in the competition is just a bonus for us,” said conductor Solares who noted that the founders of the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) all came from the city of Vienna which is synonymous with the names of Mozart and Beethoven.

The MSO was founded by a Viennese musician named Alexander Lippay in 1926 and later nurtured by Viennese musician and concentration camp survivor Herbert Zipper whose life was the subject of a documentary nominated in the Oscar awards.

Noted Solares, “The entire building of the Musikverein was a veritable temple for classical music. What a great privilege and life experience to perform and conduct an orchestra of young Filipinos in these halls where Brahms, Mahler, Furtwangler, Bernstein, Dudamel, and many great artists have performed! And the acoustics made you feel you are so brilliant and you don’t want to stop playing at all. The hall was constructed like a musical instrument that was designed to enhance the sound of your own instrument.”

The Manila Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Darrell Ang and guest soloist Iskandar Widjaja at the Irwin Lee Theater in Ateneo 

The MSJO played a 25-minute program that included Mozart’s Divertimento in D (the contest piece), Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances, Cayabyab’s Ondoy Ondoy, which was specially composed for MSJO’s European concert tour.

The Filipino youth musicians’ performance was greeted with a long applause one of the judges had to wait for the cheers to die down before he could deliver his message. Noting the orchestra’s excellent preparation, the judge gave thanks to the Philippine delegation and commended the MSJO soloists

With the Philippine delegation was Ernesto “Judz” Echauz, chairman of Standard Insurance Group of Companies, which is the main sponsor along with Ayala Malls.

Earlier, the members of the MSJO attended the opening ceremonies at the St. Stephen Cathedral where Mozart got married and where he received the last rites when he died at the age of 35.  They also visited the Mozart house in the historic city 

Meanwhile, the MSO was featured in another concert with guest conductor Darrell Ang and guest soloist Iskandar Widjaja (IDN/GER) on violin Aug. 5 at Irwin Theater in Ateneo and Aug. 6 at the Circuit in Makati City.

The program included Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 and a new composition by a Filipino composer.

Conductor Jeffrey Solares with the members of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra in Vienna, where the group won second place in  the String Orchestra category at the 11th Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival. (Photo from the Facebook post of Sara Gonzales)

Meanwhile, the main highlight of the opening season concert of the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Molina last month was the monumental Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27 mounted at the Circuit in Makati.

Happening as it did when the country was reeling from the ongoing war in Marawi, the Rachmaninoff symphony was at once timely as it conjured images of gloom and hope, of the world’s uncertain conditions and reflects the weary, almost hopeless outpouring of humanity in the third movement. The electrifying finale at once conveyed new hope for humanity.

Like it or not, the MSO was in good shape in this piece de resistance and what an incredible show of energy and stamina!

Under Molina’s baton, the sound was rich and intoxicating and it smoldered from one musical phrase to another.

But the adagio of the third movement brought out a familiar sound (it inspired many pop compositions including Eric Carmen’s “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again”) and here you see Rachmaninoff as the Master of Melodic Contours.

Its opening was breathtaking and in a few moments came the sea of lyrical outpouring which could melt the heart.

Brilliant was the only word that came to mind as one heard the last movement with the familiar theme from the first movement.

The last notes of the symphony resulted in an audience too stunned to react and no doubt mesmerized as one by one, they stood to give the orchestra a rousing standing ovation.

It has been a long time since one saw a symphony being cheered as ecstatically as this one.

Moreover, the first part of the concert is abnormally short (less than 30 minutes) but they were enough to showcase Nonong Buencamino’s Tiamis, which is about the unrequited love of Leonor Rivera and Jose Rizal.

Originally scored for cello and piano, the piece became an orchestral piece with cellist Arnold Josue as soloist.

As it were, the piece brought us to another time and another place with its poignant and lyrical outpouring. It ended with the last lonesome notes of the cello and instantly, it captured the nobility and depth of the once and future love of the Filipino hero and his Leonor Rivera.

The latest MSO concert is but one of the many facets of the Filipino musicians who remain the enduring symbols of what is amazing about the Filipino artists.

With no visible government support, the MSO has managed to sustain its season offerings and the people behind it and yet still find time to teach young musicians in its MSO music academy and to hone a new generation of musicians in its MSO Junior Orchestra.

The musicians of the MSO carry many of the redeeming qualities of the Filipino performing artist.

Without a home of its own and with no rehearsal hall of its own, these musicians survive by the skin of their teeth, so to speak.

One hopes the new administration will find time to listen to Filipino musicians who symbolize what is good and enduring about the Filipino as music interpreter.

Topics: Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) , Jeffrey Solares , 11th Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival
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