The sound gestures of Olivier Ochanine

Frenchman Olivier Ochanine is the new musical director of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. Superb.

Last night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, as the torrential weather coated the entire city with an unlikely charm, a warm and wonderful treat took place.  The French conductor Olivier Ochanine, who became the musical director of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in March this year, had decided to present a superb selection consisting of the following: Colas Breugnon Overture by Dmitri Kabalevsky, Pastorale d’été, H. 31 by Arthur Honneger and Symphony No. 40 in G minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for this year’s opener of the National Orchestra Festival.

Also under his baton, the Festival Orchestra performed the Symphony No. 5, Op. 64 in E minor by Pyotr Ilyich  Tchaikovsky on the same night.

The fountain turned-up today much to the delight of people around. The night was destined to be filled with the magic only an orchestra music can bring but it’s kind of depressing that people don’t bother to dress-up for the occasion of going to the CCP anymore. I mean, you don’t have to wear a suit and all (I did) but at least no slippers and jeans, please.  The hubbub and the elegant poster of the festival drew me and other curious passerby. Caroline decided to seat us in the middle so that the sound “is balanced”. I never understood why though.  A couple walked to the ticket window and asked, “What kind of show you got tonight?” The cashier answered,  “We’ve got Mozart and Tchaikovsky.” The couple blanched. “But the new conductor, (she pointed to a photo of Ochanine on the program) is here,” she added. That closed the deal.

Ochanine is young and good-looking.  This concert showed why he is being followed even if mostly by a few dedicated fans of women over 40. First came a richly rendered “Lupang Hinirang” that made us all stand up. I have never heard our own national anthem in such beauty. Nicanor Abelardo, for whom the perfomance hall is named, must be clapping his hands in heaven. Colas Breugnon Overture by Dmitri Kabalevsky is like a musical score from a Disney movie set in a swiss countryside. Its a mind massage to hear the orchestra playing, I tell you.

I can tell you also that I was almost moved to tears by the Pastorale d’été, H. 31 by Arthur Honneger, with its subtle heartfelt flute.

And then there was, Tchaikovsky! (need I say more?)

As Audrey Hepburn sung in My Fair Lady, its one of those nights when “I could have danced, danced, danced all night” but  you can’t possibly dance inside the performance hall. Nevertheless, inside my head was all dancing and prancing.

Ochanine’s conducting is so absorbing!

Other performances in the Festival

On Sept. 22, the PREDIS Chamber Orchestra under conductor Jeffrey Solares executes Wolfgang A. Mozart’s “Divertimiento in D Major, K 136,” Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto Grosso in A Minor,” Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor,” Edvard Grieg’s “Suite from Holberg’s Time,” and Bela Bartok’s “Rumanian Dances.”

The Manila Symphony Orchestra under conductor Arturo Molina will perform Angel Peña’s “Philippine Festival Overture,” Tchaikovsky’s “Tempest,” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”

On Sept. 23, the UST Symphony Orchestra led by Herminigildo Ranera, plays the “Rienzi Overture” by Richard Wagner, the “Piano Concerto No. 6 in B flat Major K 238″ by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Najib Ismail on the piano, and “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius.

Meanwhile, Salonga’s FILharmonika performs “Terry’s Theme” from “Limelight” by Charlie Chaplin, with arrangements by Salonga himself, “Night on a Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky, “Yerma” by Francisco Feliciano and “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein.

On Sept. 24, the UP Orchestra under Martinez plays “Overture to the Impressario” by Mozart, “Serenade for Strings” by Tchaikovsky, and “Mindanao Sketches” by Antonino Buenaventura.

The Angono Chamber Orchestra under Agripino Diestro stages Francisco Buencamino’s “Pizzicato Caprice,” Antonio Vivaldi’s “Violin Concerto in A minor, KV356, Op. 3 No. 6,” with violinist Mikhail Ivan Ramos, and Lucio San Pedro’s “Katutubong Awitin” and “Jubilate” arranged by Diestro.

The Orchestra Festival’s grand finale on Sept. 25 features Bernstein’s “Three Dance Episodes from On the Town,” Richard Wagner’s “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin,” Johannes Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture,” Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture,” Ralph Vaughan William’s “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” and selected movements from the “Gayane Ballet Suite” by Aram Khachaturian

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