Prodigies face Beethoven and Sibelius challenge

For once, the music prodigies are the country’s natural newsmakers even as the senate hearings on prison shenanigans and erring cops manage to enjoy more dramatic mileage.

Cello prodigy Damodar Das Castillo wowed CCP audience as soloist in the Saint-Saens concerto with PPO and won rousing cheers.

Then he won Ilonggo fans in a rare recital in the historic Nelly Gardenin Iloilo City and won more following for the cello.

On Sunday, October 6, 2019, 6 p.m. 19-year old conducting prodigy Tarmo Peltokoski leads the Manila Symphony Orchestra in an evening of Beethoven’s Fifth at the Arete Ateneo de Manila campus.

Conducting prodigy Tarmo Peltokoski. From piano to conducting.

Making her debut in the Sibelius violin concerto is 15-year old Jeanne Rafaella Marquez who watched her first orchestral concert less than ten years ago also with MSO.She said she chose the Sibelius concerto because it was her all-time favorite. The preparations for it she admitted was tough.

Add to it the fact that she is playing with an orchestra only for the second time. “The first one was at the Salcedo Park last year also with the MSO. “But I only played the first movement of Lalo Symphonie Espagnole with Sir Arturo Molina as the conductor. But I got earlier more exposure as soloist of Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra.”

She started playing the violin at age six after watching a church concert with a violinist.

Studying the violin for the first time taught her that there is no short cut for playing classical music. “We get things easily these days. If we want food, we can order through online apps.If we have school researches, we don’t need to go to different places. Almost everything is available through the internet.But learning to play classical music beautifully has no short cut.To play nicely, it takes years.You need to learn different scales, etudes, and caprices aside from the music piece itself.Every day, you need hours of practice and to clean the pieces before getting things right.And I think these are the advantages of playing classical music, I learned to be patient, to work very hard, and to manage my time for school, for personal practices, for orchestra rehearsals and for performances.Also, it strengthens my memorizing skills because I am required to memorize my pieces for recitals, performances, and others.”

A student of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Peltokoski is a piano prodigy but has turned to conducting as a matter of course.

Jeanne Rafaella Marquez: soloist in the tough Sibelius violin concerto.

A student of the famous Finnish conductor Jorma Panula since 2014, Peltokoski has conducted the Sofia Philharmonic (Bulgaria), the Janáček Philharmonic (Ostrava, Czech Republic), the South Denmark Philharmonic, among others.

He said there was no conscious effort to shift from piano to conducting but he knew all along he was headed in that direction. “Last year started with a lot of piano playing, a competition and a performance of Chopin's E Minor concerto. After that, I had a lot of conducting courses and an audition for the Sibelius Academy. I got in, never finished high school and begun studies at the academy. Of course, I've played concerts since and I still do, but studying in the famous conducting class is a huge honor and responsibility. Nothing is more natural to me than playing the piano. But the truth is conducting is in many ways more ‘difficult’ than playing an instrument. Not in any technical sense, but in terms of the vastness of the craft. This has nothing to do with a choice to conduct rather than to play something. The real reason I wanted to conduct is that I love symphonies more than piano sonatas.”

To be sure, nobody pushed him to go into music. “I've just tried to learn stuff and decided I want to become a great and versatile musician.”

His major music influence was the legendary Jorma Panula. “The 89-year-old professor is still teaching and I always see him once in a while. He is the master behind the great Finnish tradition of conducting and mentor of such music luminaries as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Osmo Vänskä.”

. The Manila Symphony Orchestra. An evening of music prodigies.

On the popular Fifth Symphony he could feel the incredible genius of Beethoven beyond the opening motif and the history of Napoleon’s wars, among others. “Since there is a 211-year-old tradition of playing it, we know now in how many different ways it can be done. Earlier, it has been associated with the huge Germanic sounds of Furtwängler and Karajan, the one and only Carlos Kleiber, the authentic period approach of Harnoncourt and Norrington. It is a timeless classic, a truly immortal work of art which will never be forgotten.”

As for his equally young soloist, the conductor said: “Jeanne (Marquez) is a very gifted violinist, and I look very much forward to the concert. The piece is infamous for being insanely difficult, and she is doing a great job. Hearing a 15-year-old play the Sibelius violin concerto is not something to experience every day!”

(For tickets to the October 6 MSO concert, call 891-9999.For group bookings to the MSO 2019-2020 season concerts, please call the MSO office at 523-5712 or email


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