On The Spotlight

Molina Conducts MSO's 90th Anniversary Concert The Music of the Filipino People in Abelardo Hall

By Ma. Edelquinn Sy-Beltran


 The “Music of the Filipino People” was a full-symphony orchestra concert held last Saturday, February 27, 2016, at 8 pm, at the Abelardo Hall of the UP College of Music. It was a concert commemorating works composed by Filipino composers Rodolfo Cornejo (1909-1991) and Antonino Buenaventura (1904-1996 ), and their composition teacher and director of the UP Conservatory of Music, Dr. Alexander Lippay (1892-1939) who directed the conservatory from 1925-1930. Dr Alexander Lippay was from Austria and graduated with a Doctorate in Law and Music degrees from the University of Vienna.

Alexander Lippay introduced the large work genre of Viennese classicism in Philippine music compositional writing. The idiom of Viennese large works is composed for a larger symphonic instrumental medium beginning with the usual symphony orchestra. Part of Dr. Alexander Lippay’s work in the Philippines was when he founded one of the earliest orchestras in Asia. It was officially declared Manila Symphony Orchestra in 1932 along with the Manila Symphony Society at it helm.

Three of these Viennese type large works were played by a young orchestra, the present MSO who traces connection to Lippay’s Manila Symphony Orchestra through one of its former concertmasters. Buenaventura’s four-movement symphony, the Symphony in C (1960), Rodolfo Cornejo’s Rhapsody No. 2 (1942) with piano solo, and Alexander Lippay’s Variations on the Philippine National Hymn (1928), made up the program. Buenaventura’s Mindanao Sketches was the finale of the night as a curtain call performance.

When Alexander Lippay arrived in the UP Conservatory March of 1925, there was no symphony orchestra to work with. A symphony orchestra only became possible with the help of the Philippine Constabulary Band making up the winds section along with the UP Conservatory of Music’s string orchestra. The first seeming performance of a “symphony orchestra” was organized in January 22, 1926. Its proceeds were for the benefit of the library of the Philippine Constabulary Band. Dr. Alexander Lippay, who just arrived a few months before and who was touted as conductor and composer of European “new musique” in the periodicals, was invited to conduct. The movers behind were American colonial elites and their Filipino counterparts. The orchestra was simply called “Symphony Orchestra.”

The following concerts of the Symphony Orchestra was under the auspices of an early 20th century private music association called the Asociacion Musical de Filipinas headed by the Tuason-Valdes-Roces family. They sponsored symphonic concerts conducted by Lippay for a full five years following the first performance in 1926.

In the UP Conservatory report dated 1916-1960, the following was lifted:

“The formation of the UP Conservatory Orchestra was first mentioned in the 1926-1927 Annual Report. It was then called the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. In view of the many difficulties (orchestral training and the absence of wind courses) orchestral practices and concerts could be held only in cooperation with the Constabulary Band which could provide the necessary wind instrument players.”_

In the same UP Conservatory Report, it was also stated:

 “In the 1928-1929 school year, the Conservatory faculty and students took part in a series of three symphony concerts given in cooperation with the Constabulary Civic Orchestra. This ambitious project was carried out through the help given by the Asociacion Musical, a private musical organization.”_

According to the report above, the Asociacion Musical de Filipinas sponsored symphonic concerts of the Philippine Constabulary Band and the UP Conservatory Orchestra from 1926-1931. Ramon Corpus, Nicanor Abelardo, Bonifacio Abdon, Jacobe Cayetano, Ramon Mendoza, and other professors of the conservatory and known musicians of their time, played for the first performances of Lippay’s symphonic concerts. It was in one of the 1928-1929 concerts that Lippay’s Variations on the Philippine National Hymn was played approximately two years after his arrival. It was also ten years later in 1938 when the Commonwealth Government declared this hymn by Julian Felipe as the Philippine National Anthem.

Antonino Buenaventura, who composed the Symphony in C in four movements, followed the steps of Walter H. Loving, the founder and director of the Philippine Constabulary Band founded approximately in 1902. The Band was at the height of its world popularity when it played in the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, at the inauguration of President William Howard Taft in 1909, at the Panama Canal Exposition in 1915, and at the Golden Gate Exposition in 1937. Walter H. Loving did not survive the war along with other members of the band. When the band was revived in 1946, Col. Antonino Buenaventura became its conductor. Antonino Buenaventura entered the UP Conservatory in 1925 and graduated in 1929. He was a student of Lippay during the latter’s term as director of the conservatory. He graduated in 1929 with a degree in Science and Composition._ Among other things, Buenaventura wrote a total of 12 compositions for orchestra and 4 works for orchestra and chorus.

Together with Antonino Buenaventura and Bernardino Custodio, Rodolfo Cornejo was one of the students trained by Lippay in composition. For the orchestra alone, he wrote three compositions. For orchestra and solo instrument, he wrote 9 compositions. The Philippine Rhapsody No. 2 (1942), is one of three Philippine Rhapsodies written for solo piano and orchestra. The first one was written in 1939, the second one in 1942, and the third one in 1947. Rodolfo Cornejo is listed in the 1930 conservatory graduate program majoring both in Pianoforte and in Science and Composition.

Dean Jose Buenconsejo’s opening remarks reiterated the objective of the night’s performance. It was to recollect the time when “large serious fine art musics” must be “criticially apprehended by an (appreciative) audience.” Not just the elite, as he pointed out, but “by anyone who cared to learn music and who wished to cultivate their sensibility in discerning and contemplating the beauty of sound patterns.” Lippay’s labor in the Philippines was documented in this instance in his 13 Variations on the Philippine National Hymn. Dean Buenconsejo explained how Viennese classicism “demanded”… “how music must be articulated to perfection and how its audience must be disciplined to do a critical contemplation of it.” Following the trail of the first two sections of Julian Felipe’s “Patria Adorada” (now “Lupang Hinirang”) throughout the 13 variations is not a simple task even for those who have heard it. It does gets lost in a cloud of compositional styles and elements reminiscent of the changing European compositional idioms of the 20th century. Beside from reminding us that a symphony orchestra is a metaphor that “mirror the nature of social organization,”… “a playful symbolization of ideal social relationships or order”… he reminds us too, that… “With hindsight, we recognize the fruit of Dr. Lippay's love and labor of music as Filipino cultural excellence which remembrance 90 years after, should push us now in 2016 towards another phase of Filipino achievement.”