By Jullie Y. Daza
Raul Sunico. He scaled Mt. Olympus in one night playing all four piano concertos of Rachmaninov and got away with it. No injury to his fingers, no visible signs of fatigue.
Ingrid Sala Santamaria. She tackled Rachmaninov (his most popular piano concerto, the No. 2) and Tchaikovsky (his most played piano concerto, the No. 1) all in one night without bruising her gown, her makeup, her elegant composure.
Put the two together and what do you have? In one night, March 16, at CCP, a dazzling performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Two pianos and Orchestra in A flat.
“Dazzling?” Raul repeated. “It was dizzying. I’m glad we survived it,” meaning Ingrid and the Philippine Philarmonic Orchestra.
“Dazzling?” Ingrid inquired. “It was a monster!”
Maybe dazzling doesn’t quite say it, maybe double dazzler of a double treat would be closer to the truth. The two pianists, arguably the most active and the busiest hereabouts, have played together before, but last week’s show was their showiest yet. The concert hall was 90 percent occupied, quite a record! Why, even the pianos sounded better, with Raul taking the lead on CCP’s almost brand-new Fazioli, and Ingrid tackling second lead on a Steinway. Watching and listening to the two performers, the audience heard a seamless connection between piano and pianist, and between the two musicians: Mendelssohn’s composition, written when he was 15 years old, could have been a concerto created for one piano, not two.
Ms. Ingrid, wearing a gown fashioned of reembroidered lace in black and red, affirmed after the concert: “Oh yes, between the two of us we had quite a number of rehearsals.” On her own, she practiced four, five hours a day without her partner. Raul, who’s known in the business for his photographic memory, dashed in and out of rehearsals to catch his classes at UST and St. Paul College, where he teaches music and statistics.
On the night of the concert, Raul played from memory and Ingrid was seen turning the pages four or six at a time, which meant she was practically playing from memory. Indeed, a memorable night for their fans and followers, and whether they’d describe it as dazzling or dizzying, somewhere in the back of their minds they must have asked, how deep is the bench of concert pianists who’d dare contrive and confront challenges head on, like these two?