Aries Caces And The Beauty Of Piano Music

by jun asuncion

If  you understand that music is a craft,  then you would also appreciate watching how musicians work offstage in full concentration as they give form to a printed music and refine the details. It is hard work. Personally, I enjoy more watching rehearsals or musical workshops for that matter than concerts for the simple reason that I learn more about music. In a concert situation you’ll only find yourself adoring the artist after a virtuosic or in your own opinion a perfect piano playing and interpretation. But if you ever learned something about the music and techniques, that’s another question.

I have seen two years ago how Aries Cases rehearsed his pieces in the morning before his evening concert, and how he was completely absorbed in his playing amidst the noises around him as chairs were being pushed and pulled, mics and mixer being tested, stage screen rolled up and down, tables set, etc. Aries just went on undisturbed, hovering his fingers on the Steinway keys, playing a barrage of perfect glissandos  of Liszt’s Mephistopheles Waltz, Beethoven’s Appassionata, to name just a few of his very heavy playlist that evening of 2009. After his rehearsal, I helped him re-position the piano in search of the point on the stage with the best acoustic return for the pianist. And then we talked about music.

Now, as my mind is full with classical music again in anticipation of  Aries’ concert  in Zürich next month, I was fortunate enough to have found uploaded video materials with Aries and his student during a master class on Beethoven’s piano works held in Manila. Here you can see how a master shows the student the finesse of piano playing and musical interpretation.

I look forward to meeting Aries next month with Franz Liszt in his luggage, I mean in his head, for I know he will be playing Liszt’s piano works wholly  from memory. I’m over the moon as I imagine  to hear live Liszt’s Liebestraum, Hungarian Rhapsodies, Trancendental Etudes and perhaps Nuages gris.  This year marks the 200th birth anniversary of Franz Liszt, the enfant terrible of piano in his time who, in 1848 in his mid-age, had left the concert stage and retired into seclusion in search of new musical forms and harmonies which resulted in his symphonic poem – a one movement orchestral music-  and  in works containing whole tone scale, parallel fifths, diminished and augmented triads and dissonances, thus breaking the walls  of classical constraints and laying  the foundation for 20th century composers like Ravel, Bartok and Debussy and anticipating to a great extent modern musical forms as rock and jazz.

My acknowledgement to Aries’ student for his uploaded video clips.


The Pianist

Vienna based pianist Aries Caces is one of the most versatile Filipino concert pianists. Aside from being a chamber musician and repetiteur, he is also a conductor. The late Manila critic Vilma Santiago-Felipe described him as “another gem in the Philippine music scene.” At the age of seven, he enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Conservatory of Music as a personal scholar of Prof. Feliza Custodio. From 1980 to 1985, he attended the Philippine High School for the Arts and the UST Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Prof. Ernestina Crisologo and Prof. Bernardino Custodio. In 1982 he won First Prize in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (Piano Category). Two years later, he was runner – up in the Manila Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competitions. Caces came to Graz, Austria in 1985 upon the invitation and arrangement of then Austrian Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr. Friedrich Posch. He studied with Prof. Walter Kamper at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz. From 1986 to 1993, he was under the tutelage of world-renowned pianist Prof. Paul Badura-Skoda at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. He finished his “Diplom” in 1989 and obtained his Master’s Degree (Magister Artium) in Piano Performance in 1994 under Prof. Roland Keller. He also studied Piano Chamber Music with Prof. Georg Ebert. In 1999, he finished his “Diplom” in Conducting at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna under the tutelage of Prof. Uros Lajovic. Caces has performed several solo recitals and various concerts in the Philippines, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.S.A. In 1989, he was soloist of the Hochschulsymphonieorchester in a concert performed at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. He was awarded the “Prix Decouverte” during the Festival International de Musique in Le Touquet, France in 1991. He has also played as soloist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, UST Symphony Orchestra and the Hannover Kammersymphonieorchester. In 2001, he was a featured soloist of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra during its first European tour. He was a recipient of several scholarships, including the Makiling Academy and Research Institute for the Arts (MARIA), UST Conservatory of Music Alumni Association, Music Promotion Foundation of the Philippines, Cultural Center of the Philippines Young Artist’s Fund and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research.


A Visit To Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic

 by jun asuncion

Last 2009, 2010 and early this year, we were in the Philippines for various reasons.

In some occasions, we went as far as Bulan, visited relatives and nice places in the region

and, of course, Sta. Remedios and took some photos of people and of these  places.

This year, we shall be continuing with the projects we have in mind for the medical mission

and for the Bulan Observer Foundation that we are trying to set up.

The  Bulan Lions Club Medical Mission

 (photos courtesy of the Bulan Lions Club)

On Mission: Mr. Antonio Vytiaco, Sr. of Bulan Lions Club.

 A photo of Mr. Antonio Vytiaco, Sr. of Bulan Lions Club,
the person who organized the distribution of the medicines
sent by Bulan Observer and Team to the people in need.
Special thanks to Dr. Maria Belen Gordola, the president of
the Lions Club International, Bulan Sorsogon Chapter and
all the helpers behind for making their medical missions a success.
Bulan Observer, together with Franklin Patricio, Elizabeth Patricio,
 Mila Asuncion (all professional medical staff working in
 Clinic Hirslanden, Zürich, Switzerland)
 and our artist, the pianist/conductor Aries Caces are doing
their share (although they are not from Bulan themselves)  in helping the
Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic and the Bulan Lions Club
 sustain their important medical missions.
Our involvement in Bulan is purely humanitarian in nature,
 nothing political as we do not have the ambition, the need,
the proximity or the time to engage in politics.
 However, to have compassion for the poor people
is something that transcends borders, colors and cultures.
 We just respond to this call of compassion, do something with it,
 help and expect nothing in return.
This year 2011, our pianist will be performing another
 concert in Zürich for the Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic
 and Bulan Lions Club and will be playing the works of Franz Liszt
in commemoration of  the 200th birth anniversary of this
 great composer. This will be on June 17, 20011 at 7.oo pm.,
 Gemeindesaal Zollikon.
Shown here are some photos of the Bulan Lions Club
medical mission held at Sabang Park in Bulan Sorsogon last year.

2010 Medical Mission at Sabang Park Pavilion

The Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic
 (photos taken by Mila Asuncion)
Here is the  Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic.
The need for repair is very visible.

The Sta. Remedios Charity Medical Clinic

  Part of the interior of the Clinic.
 The children who live around the clinic area.
Faces of hope.
Signs of peace.
L is for love, not for Laban or political fight (opposition).
 A talk with an older inhabitant as he informs
 about the U.S.- based nurse Angelita Kowalewsky,
 the founder of the Clinic.
And the time to say goodbye has come.
A quick visit yet we took time to take photos of these children.
Their laughter and vitality is a good sign and their needs are
as small as they are.
Though their needs are small, help them to have medicines
 and medical care when pains and sickness rob them
of their vitality and laughter.
With these images and thought, we left Sta. Remedios and
were happy to be in Bulan again,
 a charming town between its hills and the waters of China sea.