ALL-AMERICAN MUSIC AT PHILAM LIFE THEATER

MANILA, September 27, 2003 (STAR) SUNDRY STROKES By Rosalinda L. Orosa  - A unique concert of exclusively American music featured 38-year old Chilean Conductor Eduardo Browne and celebrated international concertist Raul Sunico at the Philam Life Theater the other week.

Wielding the baton over the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra of which the dynamic Rodel Colmenar is founder-music director, Browne captured the verve, zest and sweep of John Williams’s Extra Terrestrial which was composed for the movie E.T. Terrestrial, evoking weird, rapidly moving creatures from outer space through powerful, thunderous chords, strong, rugged, irregular, zig-zagging rhythms and abrupt pauses.

Not long after Raul Sunico had overwhelmed music lovers with his phenomenal rendition of Rachmaninoff’s four piano concertos in one evening, he awed them again with his dazzling interpretation of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, demonstrating prodigious versatility by switching to a modern work totally different in approach, substance and style from those of the romantic Rachma-ninoff.

Gershwin made up for his lack of a solid, formal music education with a richly melodic vein, and a vitality and sense of freedom that he translated into syncopated rhythms, unconventional modulations and phrasing. Uniquely his own, these attributes have given an enduring respectability to jazz, and have left an indelible influence on other composers. Sunico brilliantly measured up to Gershwin’s music, depicting its syncopated rhythms, particularly its nervous energy that so aptly describes and sums up what being American is.

Conductor Browne, holding a tight rein on the young, highly responsive orchestra, and Sunico, playing with dash and verve, generated excitement while midway, the piano and strings pointed up the surging now famous, deeply appreciated rhapsodic melody.

Barber’s classic Adagio for Strings Op. 11 introduced a welcome shift in mood, its solemn, intense, taut quality making it "an unofficial American anthem of mourning". In this regard, Ramon "Chino" Bolipata, the country’s leading cellist during his active years onstage, was featured as special soloist for Samuel Barber’s own funeral ceremony in NY’s Brooklyn Academy – in recognition of the composition’s intrinsic merit as well as of Bolipata’s international stature and eminence.

Under Browne’s baton, the orchestra exquisitely sustained the Adagio’s quietly somber funeral air.

Gershwin’s gift for melody was underscored by the Porgy and Bess Symphonic Picture – a tone poem for orchestra based on melodies from the classic opera Porgy and Bess, adapted and orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett. Gershwin’s opera has been described as "a native American opera, possibly a folk opera", and in the symphonic poem the listener recognizes such lilting songs as the lullaby Summertime, Porgy’s I Got Plenty o’ Nuthin’ and Sportin’ Life’s skeptical It Ain’t Necessarily So.

A presentation of American music is not complete without a reflection of jazz which the Negroes of New Orleans invented, and its tremendous influence was greatly perceived that evening through Gershwin.

Pop singer-jazz artist Vernie Varga interpreted three popular songs by the composer, her arresting style drawing prolonged applause. After the Symphonic Picture, Browne struck up the orchestra with Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm for an encore to emphasize once more the compulsive, exuberant, indomitable Git Up and Go spirit of America. Audience response was deafening.

Browne, resident conductor simultaneously of the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas and the Camerata Universidad in his native Chile, proved his thorough conversance with the American musical idiom. Taking immense pride in his resounding success, Chilean Ambassador Carmen Lynam congratulated him backstage. * * *

A page which was inadvertently omitted from my review of the FEU celebration last Wednesday appears hereunder:

Compelling performances were given by soprano Margarita Yulo Gomez, who sang the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen to the accompaniment of the UST Guitar Ensemble headed by Ruben Reyes, and by Pinky Amador who sang and danced in Lady Be Good with The Whiplash. (Again the film clips tended to detract attention from Lady Be Good harked back to the musical which was actually staged at the FEU auditorium decades ago under the sponsorship of Gene and Nina Puyat.

Another highlight was Noel Rayos’ eloquent delivery of lines from Nick Joaquin’s celebrated classic Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. Repeatedly staged at the auditorium, it featured theater stalwarts Nick Agudo and Sarah Joaquin in the cast.

All this time, veteran actress and professor Rustica Carpio, standing at the front box of the theater, was narrating the FEU story while cleverly dovetailing it with the various numbers.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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