Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As a break from sordid political situation with PDAF and DAP, let’s pay tribute to violinist/conductor par excellence Oscar Yatco who passed away in Hanover last July 1. Among Yatco’s enduring achievements was honing young talents, among them 24-year old classical violinist Chino Gutierrez, who'll participate in the International Summer Mastercourse in Israel---the first Filipino to crash into this prestigious string “Olympics.”

Prof. Yatco and young Chino Gutierrez in early 2000s

Young Chino with Prof. Oscar Yatco and wife Gitti in Hanover

Let’s take a breather from the burning political issues of the day and pay homage to prominent workers in the cultural scene for a change. I think you will all agree that this particular blog would be very uplifting for your spirits.
Art and music critic Rosalinda Orosa in a recent Star article paid tribute to Maestro Oscar Yatco, the first Filipino conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, who died last July 1, 6:30 pm. Manila time, in Hanover, Germany, at age 84.
Prof. Yatco, who had been a longtime resident of Hanover, having married a German lady known to friends and relatives by her nickname, Gitti, was quoted by his niece Desiree Santos in an email to this blogger as having suffered a heart attack and subsequent comatose from which he never recovered.  
In her tribute to Mr. Yatco, Star critic Baby Orosa noted that he will be remembered in the Philippine music world for his “prodigious and protean career as violin prodigy and recipient of the UP Teacher’s Diploma at age 16, a brilliant scholar at Juilliard and the Munich State Academy of Music and Theater.”  Orosa stressed that “to German audiences Yatco represented the epitome of Filipino talent as winner of the only violin prize in a Hanover International tilt, as virtuoso soloist of major German philharmonic orchestras, as dynamic concert master of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and outstanding member of the Strauss String Quartet.”
Ms. Orosa pointed out that Yatco, as the first Filipino music director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO), “introduced contemporary masterpieces while honing the musicians’ skills in symphonic music and making the ensemble Asia’s best while he was its baton-wielder.” Thus, as first Filipino music director of the MSO, said Orosa, “Yatco’s tremendous power, vitality and artistic sensibility deepened Filipino appreciation for classical symphonies”
There is another role that Prof. Yatco played that this blogger would like to highlight: “his having led hundreds of international music students to achieve their fullest development,” as Rosalinda Orosa noted.  
One of the music talents Yatco “discovered” and helped to hone is 24-year old Filipino classical violinist Joaquin “Chino” Gutierrez, who had trained very early on (at age 7) with Prof. Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata. After suffering a number of setbacks owing largely to his family’s lack of funds to sustain his expensive music studies and training in Germany, Chino was able to resume his Bachelor of Music studies at the Munich State Academy for Music and Theater last April. Friends from various walks of life helped in his endeavor to get back to Munich. 
But this is not all---and had Prof. Yatco known of this latest achievement of Chino, he would have been enormously proud and happy.
It's a tribute to Chino's prodigious talent that earlier this year, despite having been away from formal schooling for some years, and prior to his return to Munich, he applied for---and was accepted on a partial scholarship--- to the prestigious Keshet Eilon International Summer Violin Mastercourse in Kibbutz Eilon, Western Galilee, Israel. His Munich professor heartily endorsed his application to this Mastercourse. Chino is the first Filipino to crash into this 25-year old renowned training program in Israel that has turned away many promising candidates owing to the stiffness of its requirements. .  
In this three-week annual Summer Mastercourse which will run from July 20 to Aug. 7, 2014, the best and brightest string students from all over the world will be trained by some of the most renowned pedagogues and masters in the field.  Aside from daily one-on-one tutoring by the masters (Chino will have as his tutor the renowned Russian violin icon Edward Grach) the students will be able to display their talents in solo recitals as well as participation in orchestras with the international masters. 
Thus, this Israel Mastercourse may be viewed as the “Olympics” of the violin world and in fact, over the years, many a violin career has been launched internationally from the Keshet Eilon's rigorous training program. Needless to say, it will be an incomparable experience for Chino Gutierrez, who appears quite determined and single-minded to score for the Philippines in the international violin world---in the best tradition of Filipino maestros Ernesto Vallejo (who's his great grand-uncle on the side of his mother, Ma. Antonia Sebastian-Gutierrez), Oscar Yatco and Gilopez Kabayao.  
Prof. Yatco adjusting bow-tie of his hand-picked soloist, Chino Gutierez,
 before  the MPO Concert for Yatco's 75th birthday in Manila. 

When Chino Gutierrez  was 9 years old, Prof. Yatco conducted a masterclass in Miriam College and later the maestro was said to have told him, "What are you doing here? You should be studying in Germany."  
Over the ensuing years Yatco had been very impressed with Chino’s prodigious talent, and as his niece Desiree Santos put it, her uncle must have somewhat seen himself in young Chino.  Fr. James B. Reuter narrated in his Star column, “At  3:00 A.M.,” in August 2002, about a student recital in Miriam College featuring Chino Gutierrez, then a student of Coke Bolipata. Fr. Reuter sat with Prof. Yatco in the audience.
After hearing Chino, then 11 years old, seamlessly tackle Bach, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Wieniawski and ending with beautiful Filipino pieces by Antonio Molina and Ernesto Vallejo, Yatco, as quoted by Fr. Reuter, was moved to exclaim: “My God, this is the repertoire of a graduation recital in college, for a Bachelor of Music degree. And the boy is 11 years old!”.

Prof. Yatco was later moved to say that Chino is "the Cecile Licad of the violin."
At Yatco’s recommendation, in 2000 Chino and his parents traveled to Hanover to meet with renowned violin pedagogue Jens Ellermann of the Musik Hochschule in that city---for him to assess  if  Chino had a real talent with the violin and if he should devote his life to it. Ellerman’s unhesitating verdict: Chino is “a major talent” in violin, and he encouraged the boy to pursue a career with it.

While in Hanover the Gutierrezes visited with Prof. and Mrs. Yatco, who proved to be such gracious hosts at dinners and visits to their home, touring them around the city. Yatco also helped raise funds for the boy’s studies.

In 2003 Prof.Yatco, together with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Blas Ople, Sen. Leticia Shahani, German Ambassador Herbert Jess, and Philippine Ambassador to Bonn Toto Zaide played a key role in the move of Chino and his parents to Munich, for him to further study music there when he was 13 years old. 

Ka Blas Ople, a distinguished man of letters himself and so impressed with the young boy, arranged a local hire status at the Philippine Embassy for his father, Lambert Gutierrez, so that the family would have a source of income while accompanying their minor-age son in Munich.

Prof. Yatco endorsed Chino to the NCCA which gave him a status as government scholar for a while. 

In Munich Chino excelled not only in music under Prof. Jens Ellerman who had by then moved from Hanover to the Munich State Academy, but also in math and languages. Chino represented the state of Bavaria in a national contest in Math, which is supposed to be the “lingua franca” of the Germans. He also got involved in school projects such as a translation of Hebrew into Latin. 

In November 2005 Prof. Yatco handpicked Chino to be the soloist of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra at the Maestro’s 75th birthday concert at the Philamlife Auditorium, which he himself conducted. Chino played German composer Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor. 


Unfortunately, in 2006 the plan crafted personally by Ka Blas Ople for the young boy to be able to afford his studies in Munich by means of an embassy local-hire status for his father was abrogated by new ambassador Delia Domingo-Albert. 

What was sad for the Gutierrezes was that they were forced to come home on the eve of a big music competition, the Spohr International Violin Competition in Freiburg, Germany, that Prof. Ellerman had been assiduously priming his Pinoy whiz-kid student for---so confident was the professor on how his young student would fare. At 16 then, Chino would have been one of the youngest competitors in that significant Freiburg event.

But they had to leave Munich for Manila. Prof. Ellerman, who had trained some of the world's most renowned violinists in his distinguished teaching career, saw how it had affected his pupil and he asked Chino not to compete anymore in the Spohr event.  

But all the disappointments of the past are now behind and the future looks very promising for an international career for the young violinist, with his return to the Munich Academy and his acceptance to the Keshet Eilon Mastercourse this month. What's good about Chino is that he matches the big breaks in his life with incredible self-discipline and a fierce drive to excel for his country and people, as well as deep piety and faith in the Lord.

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