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Let his fingers do the talking…

Like the old PLDT yellow pages tagline, “Let your fingers do the walking…”

Or our national artist Mang Enteng Manansala’s quip, “If I could write, I don’t need to paint…”

Concert pianist and recording artist Dr. Abelardo Galang II, traipsed over the Louis XV Steinway at the Francisco Santiago Hall of the BDO Corporate Center to bring to fore Giovannia Benedetto Platti, Frederic Chopin, and Franz Liszt. Medicis and cognoscentis came last Saturday to the 16th anniversary presentation of the Metro Manila Concert Orchestra, which was a benefit for the Payatas children.

After a masteral degree from the Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo, he added another one from Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. Abel earned his doctorate in music from the Technische Universitãt Berlin with a grade of a flat 1.0 – in musical terms, a perfect octave or something like a perfect B  (B-flat major). Abel has been a “Berliner” for two dozen years now. But he is a seasonal visitor, (in autumn, spring,  and summer) when he teaches at the Philippine Women’s University, the only college in the country that grants a doctorate in piano.


Flashback. Time seems to have stood still for Abel, who looks as young as I remember him in Berlin before the turn of the millennium. As envoy and an impecunious impresario, I reprised our former Centennial presentation “100 Stitches in Time,” (a take off from Gilda-Cordero Fernando’s “Jamming on an Old Saya.”) Abel accompanied on the keyboard our soprano Andion Fernandez (who, you may not believe it, was also our cultural attaché). We flew in from Vienna our tenor Adul Candao and our ballerina Bettina Escaño Papouli from Osnabruck. Abel even indulged my wife Victoria’s Christmas baking event for the children where he conducted and accompanied on the piano their off-keyed Christmas carols. (One of those warblers morphed into former De La Salle 6’9” superstar center and PBA prize draftee Arnold van Opstal.)

Fast-Forward to present. The program for last Saturday’s “A Night of Passion” concert said that Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 is one of the master works of the nineteenth century. (The oeuvre was initially panned by critics. Sonatas have a common thread to tie up the four parts. But an 1835 critic said this piece of Chopin was as incompatible and disjointed as four katzenjammer kids let loose to mayhem.)

The explanation in the program was hardly helpful to me: “The first movement opens with a short introduction, followed by a stormy opening theme and a gently lyrical second theme in D  major. After the development comes again the lyrical second theme – but this time in B  major (in which the movement ends). The secownd movement is a virtuoso scherzo in E  minor with a more relaxed melodic central section in G  major. The third movement begins and ends with the celebrated funeral march in B   minor which gives the sonata its nickname (The Funeral March) but has a calm interlude in D    major. The finale contains a whirlwind of unremitting parallel octaves, with unvarying tempo and dynamics, and not a single rest or chord until the final bars with sudden fortissimo B   octave and a B  minor chord ending the whole piece.”

The program tried to be a little more helpful in the second paragraph:

“Hugo Leichtentritt discovered in the Sonata a far-reaching motive unity among the ‘incompatible’ movements, which he deemed to be the ‘cyclic principle’ that would soon find its ultimate embodiment in the works of Liszt and Cesar Franck. Alfred Einstein stated quite plainly that the Sonata I B  flat minor – comprising a ballade, a scherzo, a funeral march, and an expressive etude – constituted a whole that was entirely logical and sensible…as a product par excellence Romantic, and so intentionally reconciling opposite.”

Fortunately, before playing the piece, Abel did us the kindness of decoding the gobbledygook and explained in layman’s language that the first part is the excitement and discovery by a child, the second part was the mature zest for life and love, the third part was funereal, and the last was evocative of the howling of the wind.

That made it so much easier for this Philistine to follow. Incidentally, I am seduced by the thought that Chopin’s Sonata Piano Sonata 2 is  a far more rewarding experience for memorial services than all the high fives given by nears and dears.

(Not surprising that at our Berlin stint, my more provident wife Victoria always sat Abel next to her to explain all the movements, which made concerts such a joy.)

A rara avis to be so talented and to be able to explain movements to a layman. Which is why, notwithstanding his exalted status, Abel is such a much sought-after pedagogue by young and old.

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