Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Favorite Cebuano Classical Pianists

3. Aima Maria Labra-Makk. I first met this world renowned Austria-based Cebuana pianist and educator four years ago when she had a solo concert presented by the Arts Council of Cebu and St. Theresas' College, where she is an alumni. A few days before I attended the concert, I had a chance encounter with her in an elevator at Club Ultima. I ask her a question in English, but she answered fluently in Cebuano that she was here for the STC reunion and for the concert. I told her that my wife was also an STC alumni and will be joining in some of this events. The CD collector in me urged to inquire if she had some with her, and if they were selling discs at her concert. "No. I didn't bring any", she answered smiling. My regret is that I did not ask any autograph or had myself pictured with her. She has the most impeccable rendition of Jeno Takacs' works especially the Toccata, in fact, she is the only artist to record the complete discography of the Austrian composer in CD.

2. Rudolf Golez- I first met this Cebuano pianist (although I already heard of him before) at the 80th birthday party of Cardinal Vidal hosted by the Leo and Norma Limliu at the Casino Espanol. During this event, Golez offered the good cardinal a mini solo concert featuring the works of composers in their celebratory moments. These composers include Dohnanyi, Strauss, Schubert, Liszt and Chopin. He played Chopin's Etudes nos. 3 (my personal favorite) and 12 and Etude no. 4 (Golez' personal favorite). His rendition of Liszt Sonnet of Petrarch #204 was impeccable and uplifting. The poetry reading prior to the performance further intensified our appreciation for this difficult rendition. My favorite piece was his interpretation of "Franz Liszt Legend of St. Francis Walking on the Waters". I have the complete works of Liszt on my iPod by world renowned Liszt impresario- and performer Stephen Hough, and I swear Golez' rendition was much better. The crescendo-decrescendo octaves by the alternating left and right hand simulating the waves was spine tingling. The rendition surely touched everyone's innermost being. I had the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with him during this event. I told him I was also a pianist. Classical? he asked.. I said yes...Classical music was my first love and I'll continue to play it as long as I live. He also was kind enough to sign a CD which was sold at the concert. "Happy Listening....", it said..

1. Ingrid Sala Santa Maria- I first met this beautiful lady pianist when I was a teenager studying piano at their Battig Piano School in Lahug, Cebu which was adjacent to my my school, UP high. During this time, I must admit I had a crush on her. Her skin was flawless and so was her playing; she inspired me to improve on my piano playing. My piano teacher at Battig was Mrs. Pala. I can't remember now if I was under Mrs. Montenegro, but I always seem to remember her. In one of my piano recitals in the 1980's, I played Dmitri Shostakovich's Golden Age Ballet polka which was a highly harmonically dissonant piece. I was very nervous because Ms. Ingrid Sala was in the audience. I thought I made several mistakes but no one seemed to notice. My dissatisfaction evaporated when I saw her smiling and clapping.

I've seen her several times perform in Cebu. It is her advocacy to instill within the youth the love for classical music. Performing all over the country without compensation and traveling with pedagogue and educator, Maestro Reynaldo Reyes in their "Romantic Concerto Piano Journey" series. Together, with their music, they made our country a better place, culturally.

The 2011 PPO Season Concert VIII: Poom and Mahler I

For the closing concert of the 28th concert season of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) theater, Maestro Olivier Ochanine and the orchestra welcome pianist Poom Prommachart, 1st Prize winner in the 2010 Isidore Bajik International Piano Competition to perform Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto. Also on the programme, which rounds up Maestro Ochanine inaugural season with the orchestra, the First symphony of Gustav Mahler will be performed. Mahler was nearly thirty years old by the time he finished his very first symphony, and the work shows musical maturity and expertise at orchestration quite well. This work is a rousing finale for the end of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra season.

Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian-Bohemian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 the music was discovered and championed by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century.

The stamp above features Gustav Mahler issued by Austria in 2010.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spyros Samaras, Olympic Hymn Composer

Spyridon-Filiskos Samaras (also Spyros / Spiro Samara) (17 November/29 November 1861 Corfu – 25 March/17 April 1917 Athens) was a Greek composer particularly admired for his operas who was part of the generation of composers that heralded the works of Giacomo Puccini. His compositions were praised worldwide during his lifetime and he is arguably the most internationally lauded Greek composer before Dimitri Mitropoulos.

As a young man Samaras studied with Spyridon Xyndas in Corfu. From 1875-1882 he studied at the Athens Conservatory with Federico Bolognini, Angelo Mascheroni and Enrico Stancampiano. His first opera Torpillae (now lost) premiered in Athens in 1879. He went to Paris in 1882 to study at the Paris Conservatoire and became a favorite of Jules Massenet. His other instructors included Léo Delibes, Théodore Dubois, and Charles Gounod. He worked successfully as a composer in Paris for three years and then migrated to Italy in 1885.

Samaras quickly became an important figure in the opera scene in Italy. His opera Flora mirabilis première in Milan in 1886 and in 1888 Medgé was successfully staged at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome with French opera star Emma Calvé in the title role. Samaras became closely associated with Edoardo Sonzogno, a Milanese publisher. Sonzogno founded the Teatro Lirico Internazionale and chose Samaras' La martire for the theater's opening on 22 September 1894. The opera had premiered previously that year in Naples and is based on a libretto by Luigi Illica with many naturalistic elements, which gave space to Samaras musical personality for an equal treatment.

Samaras is also known for composing the Olympic Anthem, the words of which were contributed by Kostis Palamas. The Anthem was first performed during the opening ceremony of the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympic Games. It was declared the official anthem of the Olympic movement by the International Olympic Committee in 1958 and has been used at every Olympic opening ceremony since the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The stamp above of Olympic hymn composer, Spyros Samaras was issued by Greece on 2011.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The road to Kathmandu- a road less travelled

I love traveling to exotic places, and for someone from Southeast Asia, Nepal definitely fits the bill. As a young boy, I was fascinated by this mountainous, landlocked kingdom with a weird-shaped flag, and dreamt that someday I'll be able to visit the place- my dream came true. I pity that Nepal is unable to take off in tourism. They surely can be great tourist destination if the government will only strengthen their efforts by improving infrastructure and lessening corruption. There is only the Department of Roads in Nepal because there are only roads-- no highways exist. The Nepalese are a beautiful and friendly people. My hope is for their Tourism Year 2011 to be a success.

Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a country in South Asia located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi) and a population of approximately 30 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolis. Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized.

By some measures, Hinduism is practised by a larger majority of people in Nepal than in any other nation. Buddhism, though a minority faith in the country, is linked historically with Nepal. Many Nepali do not distinguish between Hinduism and Buddhism and follow both religious traditions. There are 3 different buddhist traditions: Himalayan Buddhism, Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley (mostly Mahayana and Vajrayana), and also the Theravada Buddhism. Their type of Buddhism is similar to the Sri Lankan Buddhism.

A monarchy throughout most of its history, Nepal was ruled by the Shah dynasty of kings from 1768, when Prithvi Narayan Shah unified its many small kingdoms. In 2006, however, a decade-long Civil War by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) along with several weeks of mass protests by all major political parties of Nepal culminated in a peace accord, and the ensuing elections for the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the abdication of the last Nepali monarch Gyanendra Shah and the establishment of a federal democratic republic in 28 May 2008. The first President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav, was sworn in on 23 July 2008.

On 1 June 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace. King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya, Crown Prince Dipendra and seven other members of the royal family were killed. Dipendra was accused of patricide and of committing suicide thereafter. This outburst was alleged to have been Dipendra's response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife. Nevertheless there are speculation and doubts among Nepalese citizens about who was responsible.

The Stamp Shops of Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand, the darling of tourism in Asia with over 15 million visitors yearly, surely knows how to tickle the fancy of its visitors. Anything the tourists wants, they can surely offer. Where can one see stamp shops inside a mall- only in Bangkok. In fact I was able to see two of these shops in the four malls I visited. These were located in the Pratunam district- the MBK Mall and the Siam Discovery Mall. The small but compact stamp shop of MBK mall was located at the first floor. I was here seven years ago and I was glad and relieved that it was still there after all these years. It has all the issued Thai stamps. Here, I met an Australian stamp collector specializing stamps from Thailand and Nepal. I was able to purchase the World Congress of Gastroenterology stamp and first day cover issued in 2002 and the block featuring a Thai violinist. At the fourth level of the Siam Discovery Mall, one can seen the House of Stamps. They had several stamps from other countries. I was able to obtain the Classic Album Covers sheet and some latin music stamps.

Flag, Stamp, Puzzle and Anthem of Nepal

There are no stamp shops in Nepal- this is what I learned in my 3 day stay in this mountain kingdom. There are many souvenir shops selling stamps but not a dedicated stamp store. I saw the anthem stamp I was looking for Durbar market but unfortunately it was not mint so I did not buy it. However, I was able to buy native Nepalese stuff like the meditation bowl- which emits a resonant tone when properly "stimulated", the "Lucky wheel" and the "shape-shifting" meta lwire puzzle. The seller claimed it can be formed into more than 60 shapes, but I was only able to make half of the number. Nepal is a beautiful country...the mountain flight to Everest alone was worth the visit.

"Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka" ("Made of Hundreds of Flowers") is the national anthem of Nepal. It was officially declared as the national anthem of Nepal on August 3, 2007 amid a ceremony held at the conference hall of National Planning Commission, inside the Singha Durbar, by the speaker of the interim parliament, Mr. Subash Chandra Nemwang. The lyrics of the National Anthem were written by the poet Pradeep Kumar Rai, alias Byakul Maila. The music is composed by Amber Gurung. The national anthem is simply worded, praising Nepalese sovereignty, unity, courage, pride, scenic beauty, progress, peace, cultural and biological diversity.

After the unanimous decision on May 19, 2006 by the House of Representatives (Pratinidhi Sabha) of the Kingdom of Nepal, the old national anthem was suspended. The National Anthem Selection Task Team (NASTT) on 30 November 2006, selected poet Byakul Maila's (real name: Pradeep Kumar Rai) song as the new national anthem of Nepal. The new national anthem was selected from a total of 1272 submissions made from across the country. It was officially approved on 20 April 2007. On August 3, 2007, Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka was officially declared as Nepal's national anthem by the House of Representatives.

"Shree man gambhira" was the national anthem of Nepal till May 19, 2006, when the century-old national anthem was suspended by the House of Representatives. It was adopted in 1962, as a homage to the ruler of Nepal and the country's national anthem. In English it may be named "May Glory Crown You, Courageous Sovereign" or "May Glory Crown Our Illustrious Sovereign." The music was composed by Bakhat Bahadur Budhapirthi in 1899 (Grandfather of musician Louis Banks or Dambar Bahadur Budaprithi), and the lyrics were written by Chakra Pani Chalise in 1924. After the April movement for democracy, The anthem was abolished as it was widely accused of being just a tune for monarchical glorification instead of representing the Nation as a whole.