Feature Article

July 13, 2016

Published in BusinessWorld – July 13, 2016

PPO’s Ochanine takes his leave with a bang

By Irene Obligacion Rada

A FEW DAYS before the historical Carnegie Hall performance of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), I spoke with Maestro Olivier Ochanine, the PPO’s Music Director, at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City about his dream for the PPO to perform at Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie project was three years in the making. Nobody thought it would see fruition but here we were, with all 80 members of the PPO, about to step on the stage as the first Filipino orchestra to perform at the Carnegie and on US soil.

Q: When you started out six years ago with the PPO, you must have had goals. Did you achieve them?

A: I had many goals. I achieved most of them. The most important one is where we are now, this Carnegie Hall project. Some other goals were to have the PPO do recordings. They did two recordings in the last two years. I would have wanted them to do an Asian tour. But Carnegie is the zenith. So I am pretty happy with that fact. I think this will last with the orchestra for a long time to come.

Q: What were the highlights of your career as PPO Music Director?

A: Concert wise, the Verdi: Requiem stands out for me. And probably the last concert with one of my favorite soloists, Odin Rathnam (violin). The audience was very supportive and the orchestra played very well. It was a very nice mix of music. And then the concert with bandoneonist Rodolfo Mederos, just because that was so unique and he is such a passionate musician and tangos are the kind of music that Filipinos love, so it was really unique. The audience really felt attached to the program. I’ll never forget that, plus this man Mederos is a kind of musician who stands for something and really goes with it. And he believes tango is kind of going out of fashion and he’s going around the world to keep it alive, and for us that was an added value. And, of course, Carnegie Hall, would be the most memorable of them all. Carnegie Hall is one of the most famous venues in the world. It inspires and energizes the musicians.

Q: What did you learn from your PPO experience that you will carry with you to your next?

A: This is my first Music Director’s position. It teaches you a lot. And the fact that this orchestra is a government orchestra which means that you have to learn to deal with a lot of regulations. You have to be creative. This helps a young Music Director to get to his feet and learn how to be useful and effective as much as possible. I learned a lot from them. I think they learned a lot from me. I think over all, it was a mutually beneficial relationship. But I think this is the best job, the best orchestra to work with, because everything that I needed to learn in a job was there. Like working with a government institution. Working with an orchestra from a foreign land, with a very different culture. This helped me a lot. I feel I am ready to work with any orchestra in the world. Actually, when I conduct other orchestras, I feel at ease because of the many challenges that have been present in this orchestra.

Q: What is your wish list for the PPO?

 A: That’s for the next music director. That’s his job. But I would love for the orchestra to travel more! I would like for them to increase in size. That’s the problem always in government funding. I would like for them to have more concerts in the season. In general, I would like them to feel more energized and renewed. That, of course, will be achieved by doing more outside concerts like what we are doing now here in New York. I want them to feel that they are doing the music that they love and not just going to work — which is very common in orchestras where musicians are not paid very highly. Ten years down the line, I would like them to have more international recognition, which again we are achieving now. I would like them basically to enjoy what they are doing in short.

Mr. Ochanine’s term with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, the national orchestra of the country, started with the 2010-2011 performance season. Under his leadership, the orchestra performed numerous Philippine premiers of classical music.

The PPO’s Carnegie Hall Concert was sponsored by Philippine Airlines, the official carrier of the PPO, Smart Infinity, Rustan Commercial Corp., One Meralco Foundation and supporters of PLDT Smart Foundation, Federal Land, Inc., Metrobank Card Corp., Ayala Corp. and Ayala Land, Inc.

 The author is the Corporate Communications Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She also hosts Culture Carousel on the classical radio station 98.7 DZFE-FM “The Master’s Touch,” on Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. The show, done in partnership with the CCP, offers a fusion of in-depth interviews and music representing the fare top-billed by the CCP.