I am not much fan of classical music. Maybe I am not cultured enough. I grew up in the rough-and-tumble streets of Sampaloc, Manila. I am not saying that it is impossible to have a highly cultured person in Sampaloc who loves classical music. I am not just one of them.
My choice of music is more of folk, rock and country. I grew up listening to Pinoy artists like Asin, Mike Hanopol, Florante and Freddie Aguilar. Sometimes I would also listen to Yoyoy Villame and his “Barok” and other quirky songs.
My daughter is quite the opposite. She is entranced with classical music and only listens to this kind of music. When she hears a classical piece she even knows whether it was composed during the Romantic era, or Classical era, or the Baroque (no, not Barok!) period, or whatever. She also has a gift of absolute or perfect pitch, the ability to identify a note without any reference point. I wonder where she got this gene.
Last week we watched a string quartet concert. It was sponsored by The World Food Prize, whose headquarters is in Des Moines. This is an international organization that recognizes, “without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs, the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” It was founded by Norman Borlaug, who was awarded in 1970 the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world.
The concert was a part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the said organization. They invited the Tokyo String Quartet, a world-renowned and considered one of the best, if not the best, chamber ensembles in the world. This group was founded in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music, and has performed all around the world. Even though the group was officially formed in New York City, the quartet traces its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, thus their name.
Tokyo String Quartet (image from New York Times)
The members of the group are highly accomplished and distinguished musicians, as well as professors, as they conduct master classes in North America, Europe and the Far East. If the musicians are not impressive enough, the instruments that they are using are more than spectacular. The ensemble performs on the “Paganini Quartet,” a group of renowned Stradivarius instruments that was once owned by the legendary virtuoso Niccolo Paganini of the 19th century. So from the violins, to the viola, to the cello, they are all touched by master Paganini’s hand, and are all original Stradivari’s handiwork, probably costing a few millions of dollars each one of them.
There were lots of very important people (national and international guests of the World Food Prize) in that concert. Lots of high society crowd too. And I brushed elbows with them. (Though, I still feel somewhat out of place.) Since my daughter is a member of the Des Moines Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, we had an insiders’ invitation, though the concert was open to the public.
As I sat there in the concert hall (we were less than 20 feet from the performing musicians that I could almost smell the Stradivarius), and listened to Franz Joseph Haydn and Antonin Dvorak compositions, I reflected on how far I have come. I still like my grass-root music, but I am starting to appreciate this classical music genre. And what was the best deal of this concert? It was totally free.
What’s next? The Opera? (Never been to one.) But first, I have to learn Italian.