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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Music talk with five young pianists

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Seeing young musicians perform onstage (virtually or in-person) gives me that overwhelming feeling and makes me think that the future has never been so bright.

In a special concert series, produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, five young pianists—Michael Angelo Valenciano, Inna Montesclaros, Aidan Ezra Baracol, Ella Gaw, and Nathan Gemina—take the spotlight.

They will perform classical pieces on a Fazioli (the CCP’s newest gem in its pool of grand pianos) in their 15-minute solo recital, which will be livestreamed today until Sunday, Feb. 13, via the CCP YouTube and Facebook page.

I would not pass up the chance to talk with these promising young musicians; the youngest of them is nine-year-old Ella. So, here’s how our conversations went:

GLAZING LIFE: Who is your favorite composer?

Michael (M): If I were to choose one, at the moment, it would be Brahms. I get to feel the emotions of the composer when he wrote his works like his “Op. 118 pieces.” His music is deep, contrapuntal, and connects with human emotions.

Inna (I): My go-to favorites are Brahms and Beethoven. I find their music absolutely enthralling. They don’t cower from the “human” side. They manage to express the sorrows and griefs, yet also inspire a real fighting spirit. 

Michael Angelo Valenciano

Aidan (A): Sergei Rachmaninoff has always been my favorite composer. I have not publicly performed any of his pieces yet, but I try to read and play some of them. Beyond the sweeping, brooding melodies and the compelling, intoxicating harmonies of his works, there is something in his musical language that is highly eloquent in spirit but strangely intimate at the same time. I suppose it is the magic of Rachmaninoff.

Ella (E): My favorite composer is Bach. In my opinion, his music is one of the most beautiful works I’ve heard in my piano life. I like the way he composed his pieces.

Nathan (N): By far, Debussy’s works have captivated me the most. It is a joy to listen to, as well as perform, because of his creative use of color. The first time I learned the concept of “colors” in music, it did not make sense to me until I listened intently to Debussy’s works. I think his works fully embody the “color” of sound. It can paint a picture in your head.

Aidan Ezra Baracol

GL: What has been the most difficult piece of music you’ve mastered so far?

M: Chopin’s “3rd Piano Sonata in B Minor.” It is interesting to know that Chopin never performed this work during his time. It is difficult, both, technically and musically because of the fast passage works in the second and fourth movement. It shouldn’t sound like a technical exercise, but more musical.

I: I don’t think I can ever say I’ve “mastered” it because there’s always more to improve on. But I’m very proud to have learned the “Brahms Bb Major Concerto (No.2).” It’s the most fulfilling monster to play—four movements of absolute bliss.

A: Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2” would be the most demanding piece I’ve played. It is quite a challenge maintaining the playful spirit of this particular work.

E: I think having to memorize and play Bach’s “15 Two-Part” inventions continuously was the most difficult I have done so far.

N: Rachmaninoff’s first concerto has to be the most difficult for me. It was the concerto that won me the second prize in the NAMCYA 2019. It is unpianistic in nature. Learning it would give me a headache, but pulling it off gives me great satisfaction.

GL: Which performance/s are you most proud of and why?

Ella Gaw

M: My performance in the Grand Finals of the 2019 Kayserburg Competition in Guangzhou, and my Graduation Recital in 2020. I feel like I did my very best in those performances and I’m really satisfied with it.

I: My performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” at Duke’s Hall in London. It was a great experience to work with really talented musicians who I am honored to call, friends. 

A: My performances in the NAMCYA 2020 competition, and my undergraduate recital. I carried my excitement throughout those performances and truly enjoyed the music I was playing.

E: The recording of my first solo recital since I have to memorize and play 23 songs. I also like the ones that enabled me to win in the competitions.

N: My most notable performances are my junior recital, graduation recital, the NAMCYA 2019 final round, and this special concert series with the Fazioli piano. I am most proud of them not because of how perfect my performances were but because of how significant they were in shaping my life and career. 

Inna Montesclaros

GL: Apart from classical music, what other kinds of music do you listen to? What’s in your playlist?

M: Aside from classical music, I listen to music by the Eraserheads, Coldplay, X Japan, Kings of Leon, and many more.

I: I’m very moody, and I have a soundtrack for each mood. Daniel Caesar, and RnB, Kpop, OSTs from films—I enjoy all of them. Depends on vibes, I can go Paramore to Ravel in a second if the moment demands it.

A: I love listening to folk and traditional music from other countries. We have quite a number of vinyl albums of classical and old music. I love listening to them during my spare time. Such music brings me to different worlds and eras as though I was time-traveling.

E: I like to listen to Classical Piano for Relaxation Volume 2 (CD), which features works of Bach, Debussy, Schumann, and Schubert, among others.

Nathan Gemina

N: I mostly listen to a lot of piano music at home. From time to time, I would crank up popular music of 2000s or 80s to relive my childhood memories, but I find that Schubert sonatas and impromptus are particularly on replay in my Youtube and Spotify.

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