He might have been president for several years of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), but it was only last March 17 that former Conservatory of Music dean and pianist Raul Sunico was able to perform a full piano concerto again at the CCP Main Theater.

Sunico played masterpieces from the Romantic period in “Romancing the Classics,” a joint piano concert with Ingrid Sala Santamaria.

The concert was held to mark the 35th anniversary of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), the resident orchestra of the CCP. PPO in fact accompanied the two pianists throughout the concert. Conductor was Conservatory professor Herminigildo Raner.

“I was invited to perform several times when I was president of CPP, but I declined,” Sunico told the Varsitarian. “I was the one who ultimately decided on the soloists so I’d rather not play then. Ngayon na lang ulit.”

With Santamaria, Sunico performed German composer Felix Medelssohn Bartholdy’s “Concerto for Two Pianos in A flat major.” “Concerto” is a 30-minute piece composed of three movements—the first and last characterized by brisk, playful runs. Its second movement carried a soulful touch, ending meekly with a rippling sound.

“It’s exciting to play with her,” Sunico said of Santamaria. “This is the first time we did it together. It’s sort of a bigger challenge than playing solo because we had to coordinate our tempo, interpretation, and musical ideas.”

Santamaria in fact initiated the “Romancing the Classics” series with the late famous US-based Filipino pianist and pedagogue Reynaldo Reyes, also a product of the Conservatory. The series made the rounds of Philppine provinces to bring classical music to the grass roots. Reyes died in 2016.

As part of the classical repertoire, the PPO also rendered Japanese songsmith Toro Takemitsu’s “Requiem for Strings” and German melodist Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98.”

“Requiem for Strings” is a heavy 15-minute composition that bears a wistful melody, with delicate upbringings in the beginning, ending with a resounding tone of melancholy.

“Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98,” on the other hand, is more serene in melody, with a continuous unfolding of tunes turning furious with the sound of the timpani in the end.

A Music and Mathematics graduate of the University of the Philippines, Sunico served as dean of the UST Conservatory of Music from 2002 to 2016. He obtained his master’s and doctorate degree from The Juilliard School and New York University, respectively.

Sunico has won numerous awards. He was a silver medalist in the 1979 Viotti International Piano Competition in Vercelli, Italy; a finalist in the 1979 Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy; a recipient of the Henry Cowell Prize in the 1980 University of Maryland International Piano Competition; The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (Toym) awardee for music in 1986; and a UST Dangal Outstanding Artist Awardee in 2008.

The concert series “Romancing the Classics,” kicked off last Sept. 15 and will run until April 13, with Thomasian trumpeter Raymond de Leon as finale act. KATHLEEN THERESE A PALAPAR


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