An evening with the Lozada Piano Trio

By: John Anthony Estolloso

(Mr. Estolloso is an Art and Ethics Teacher in Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School Senior High School Unit. He is also the one in charge of supervising the SHS Humanities and Language program and the OIC of the whole SHS program of the school.)

A piano trio evokes images of musical elegance: one is easily transported onto a grand hall where a soiree is in progress. At the background of the hors d’oeuvres and society gossip would be a piano, a cello, and a violin, playing woven melodies the likes of which will not make sense if taken apart separately. The evening of January 4 witnessed the same melodies in Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus’ venerable Our Lady’s Hall as Ilonggos were regaled with choice pickings from classical music’s big names – at least for chamber music. Opening the year’s season of classical performances was the Lozada Piano Trio. The group was composed of Ralph Waldo Taylan on the violin, Giuseppe Andre Diestro on the cello, and Ena Maria Aldecoa on the piano, with Tom Frinta as their artistic director.

The trio opened the programme with something light and local: Mozart and Abelardo. The former’s C-Major Piano Trio was especially characterized by the title instrument’s light, mincing staccatos and dazzling scales accented by the violin’s sporadic and whimsical grace-notes paired with the cello’s lugubrious harmony: a typical Mozart piece. The performance exuded the whimsy and childishness that was characteristic of the Wunderkind’s music.  Abelardo’s music, on the other hand, provided the local flavor of the programme. His Cavatina was reminiscent of a Chopin nocturne with distinctly kundiman features, the melancholic melody being highlighted by the violin. Conversely, his Visayan Caprice took on a lighter mood as it incorporates various folk tunes and ditties, blending them into a rhapsodic medley that is distinctly Western in style but Filipino in theme. So much for an introduction.

On a more personal note, Astor Piazzolla’s Ave Maria may be considered as the piece de resistance of the evening. His setting of the traditional Marian prayer had the same emotional pull as Schubert’s or Gounod’s version, the melody being humanly poignant without losing touch of its sacred theme. Mr. Diestro’s somber sounds from the cello complemented Mr. Taylan’s evocative melodic legato on the violin, to the persistent harp-like arpeggios from Ms. Aldecoa’s piano: the effect is exquisitely heart-rending. The sentimental performance somehow eclipsed the other Piazolla piece, the aptly-named Oblivion. It was originally composed as part of the score for Marco Bellochio’s 1984 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Listening to the melody, however, one begs to ask if Piazzolla was rehashing some segments of his Libertango just to score a film.

For professional violinists, Fritz Kriesler is usually identified with virtuoso elaborations on gypsy tunes – scales, wails, and all. Hence, it was a charming and soothing surprise to hear his arrangement of the familiar Irish tune Danny Boy. The essence of a teary adieu was in the playing, especially in the more forceful chords at the latter part of the piece. More surprising was his Syncopations, a ragtime tune with distinctly bohemian undertones. Was this jazz on the violin? Then again, there is the myopic predilection to categorize classical composers with theory and theme: all soaring sounds and hummable melodies. (Not that Syncopations was not hummable.) Then again, it wasn’t jazz; it was just Kriesler played a la Scott Joplin. The catchy superimposition of styles is not lost to the perceptive ear.

The final piece of the programme was an arrangement of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9. Notorious for his dazzling displays of piano acrobatics, Liszt does not spare any musical braggadocio in this composition – and the musicians were up to it. In the performance, the rhapsody resembles a musical conversation, nay, an argument among the three instruments, each trying to impose on the listener the virtuosity of each performer. True to rhapsodic tradition, it piles on theme after theme without losing the nuances of the composition’s unifying thought. Given the patchy bursts of musical embellishments that characterized many a Liszt composition, it was an exhilarating experience – both to audience and artist.

Heeding the calls for an encore, the trio graciously capped the night with a recap of Kriesler’s Syncopations but not before giving the audience an arrangement of Paul Galang’s Mapayapang Daigdig – the one-piece perhaps that held up to the subtle pianissimos of Piazolla’s Ave Maria. The fading last notes especially were subtle, refined, and delicate – a delight to the ear and to the heart.

Given the standing ovation rendered to the performers at the end of the concert, one is moved to ask if formal chamber music is here to stay in Iloilo City. One thing is sure though: the Lozada Piano Trio presented something out of the ordinary in the daily musical fare of the city. Granted, there were awkward moments. Notwithstanding the number of cellphones dropped with resounding thumps during the course of the performance or the uncalled-for applause in the middle of the Mozart trio (which included this unwary writer), the evening was an elegant and tasteful refresher to the soul. Whatever tactless sounds that evening might have incurred, let us consider these as growing pains of a contemporary audience reawakening its interest on and appreciation of a classical repertoire. After all, we live in the city where the past is always present.