(Cagayan de Oro City) - In the weekend of February 10, some lucky Kagay-anons were served the equivalent of a Chef’s Table of Piano Masters by Maestro Massimo Folliero, a concert pianist from Milan, Italy and Piano Professor of Braga Conservatory of Music.
A chef's table is a table located in the kitchen of a restaurant, reserved for VIPs and special guests where patrons are served a themed tasting menu prepared and served by the head chef himself.
Not only does the head chef communicate with guests and offer them the day’s freshest menu choices, but the wine steward (sommelier) also makes several expert suggestions of wines from which to choose.
For this timely prelude to Valentine’s Day dubbed Romantic Impressions, Maestro Max did not only act the part of the head chef but the sommelier as well.
In deference perhaps to those in the audience who joined his Master Class earlier in the same day and the students from Liceo de Cagayan University’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, Folliero presented a short but fulfilling programme of Romantic and Impressionist Music from Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Frédéric Chopin and George Gershwin with a brief presentation of each piece before performing it, much like how the head chef and sommelier does at a Chef’s Table before serving each dish on the menu and beverage on the wine list.
Starting with Claude Debussy's Reflections in the Water (Reflets dans l'eau) from the first volume of Images, Maestro Max explained: “With this piece Debussy wanted the audience to feel the magic of the water when he composed it. Using very fast notes, sometimes in a very soft tone, sometimes very loud, he wanted the audience to feel the many nuances of what water can be from a drop to a wave and all others in between.”
This is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water; in particular, light reflecting off its surface. The piece creates an image of water being not quite still, then becoming rapid, then decreasing in motion again.
The Maestro next performed Frédéric Chopin Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31 which was dedicated to Countess Adèle Fürstenstein that German composer and music critic Robert Schumann compared to a Byronic poem, "so overflowing with tenderness, boldness, love and contempt."
“Chopin wanted to show his part of the sonata or symphony by showing his personality through his music,” Folliero noted. “So this scherzo has an A-B-A format. It starts as an exposition of the main theme, followed by a section in the middle that’s different, and then brings back the main theme in the end. “
According to Wilhelm von Lenz, a pupil of Chopin, the composer said that the renowned sotto voce opening was a question and the second phrase the answer: "For Chopin it was never questioning enough, never soft enough, never vaulted (tombe) enough. It must be a charnel-house." Huneker exults, "What masterly writing, and it lies in the very heart of the piano! A hundred generations may not improve on these pages."
Folliero next chose to build up from the previous pieces with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Preludes Op. 23, No. 4 in D minor, No. 5 in G minor, and No. 7 in C minor.
“Like many composers during his time, Rachmaninoff wanted to bring back the music of the Romantic Period,” the Maestro explained. “He composed different pieces from piano concertos, sonatas, very beautiful chamber music, especially Cello Sonata, and of course several pieces for piano.”
“Like the scherzo, the prelude is actually a part of something bigger such as a suite, but like Chopin and many other composers, Rachmaninoff wanted to compose a prelude as a piece that can stand alone by itself,” he added.
For the afternoon’s pièce de résistance Folliero climaxed with a rousing rendition of George Gershwin’s beloved Rhapsody in Blue.
“Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue can be considered a classical piece from the way it uses a variety of musical styles,” Folliero explained. “This piece was originally written for two pianos. But soon there was a transcription for orchestra, a transcription for orchestra with woodwind and brass, and a transcription for a piano solo.
Gershwin completed a two-piano score in an astounding 17 days, which was no mere “jazz concerto” but rather a rhapsodic work for “piano and jazz band” incorporating elements of European symphonic music and American jazz with his inimitable melodic gift and keyboard facility.
Romantic Impressions was brought to you by Smart Communications, the Development Bank of the Philippines, Cagayan de Oro Vice Mayor Rainer Joaquin Uy, Sam Design and Ororama.
(Photos: Cover - Massimo Folliera performs Debussy's Refle ctions in the Water (Reflets dans l'eau) at the Rodelsa Hall, Cagayan de Oro City on 10 Feb 2018 (photo by Mike Baños, NPN); Folliero enjoys dinner at Cucina Higala with friends from Liceo Music Conservatory; with Liceo de Cagayan University Chair Dr. Rafaeilita P. Pelaez.)