The University of the Philippines College of Music Centennial Concert Series opened last September 24, 2015 at the Abelardo Hall Auditorium to an SRO audience! Four historic piano concertos of Nicanor Abelardo, Francisco Santiago, Juan Hernandez and Rodolfo Cornejo capped by Josefino Chino Toledo’s work for five pianos and orchestra transformed the venerable concert hall into a sanctuary of the Ineffable where the creative minds of the composers found a perfect voice in the hands of each musician and where this voice found its way to nearly 800 listeners who witnessed these monumental works in one single evening!

The concert opened with Toledo’s Pamantasang Hirang Overture derived from Abelardo’s UP Naming Mahal. The warmth of its sound and the royal grandeur of the instrumentation rekindled a sense of pride and belongingness to this home called University of the Philippines. What followed was a formidable marathon of piano concertos. Soloists Luci Magalit, Augusto Espino, Pia Margarita Balasico, and Jourdann Petalver rendered an engulfing interpretation of the concertos which brought the house into jubilant applause and shouts of “BRAVO!”. Each one optimized a wide spectrum of nuances a Steinway grand piano is known for. Magalit showcased the depth of her pianism in Nicanor Abelardo’s Concerto in Bb Minor. Her singing lines, introspective voicing and fiery temperament served the highly vocal, mysterious and pointed style of the concerto. Espino’s brilliant execution of the third movement of Francisco Santiago’s Concerto in Bb Major was both engaging and energizing. One literally heard the contagious joy and vibrance innate in the movement. In Hernandez’s Fantasie Concerto in D Minor, Balasico revealed her prodigious command of technique and musicianship. Her voluptuous tones cut-through and her focused lines drew one into the music. Petalver’s lyricism in Rodolfo Cornejo’s Concerto No. 3 in B Minor blended perfectly with the orchestral texture. His utmost precision and flawless execution made the virtuosic passages transparent and striking.

Unforgettable and equally thrilling was Josefino Chino Toledo’s Tikladong Hirang, a derivative work for five pianos and orchestra using materials from Nicanor Abelardo’s Piano Concerto in Bb Minor, Felipe de Leon’s Sayaw Ng Igorot, Juan Hernandez’s Fantasie Concerto in D Minor, Jose Maceda’s Music for Five Pianos, Ramon Santos’ K’lintang and Josefino Chino Toledo’s Ekontra: Kongruo: Iunktum. The sensitivity and openness to individual characters, coupled with utmost expressivity and deep understanding of the work brought pianists Ena Maria Aldecoa (piano 1), Carolyn Cheng (piano 2), Geraldine Marie Gonzales (piano 3), Mita Antonia Fernandez (piano 4), and Michelle Nicolasora (piano 5) into a marvelous union of sounds glued together by the orchestral texture. It was an unforgettable walk through mysticism, lyricism, festive dance, romanticism, exactitude and diversity. The effect was glorious and mesmerizing!

Worth noting was the impressive orchestration of Santiago’s and Hernandez’s concertos done by the 2015 MuK 173 Orchestration Class. The UP College of Music Centennial Festival Orchestra under the baton of uncompromising yet affirming maestro Josefino Chino Toledo provided a fertile ground, wherein the music could unfold lending a rich palette of sound to the solo parts. All these played an integral part on that grand, engulfing and unforgettable evening! BRAVO, University of the Philippines College of Music!