Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Jonathan Zaens' 'stunning' kundiman album

Pablo Tariman in last Monday's Inquirer couldn't have said it better.

“There are singers and singers, but only a few have a gift for interpretation that goes beyond what the text and music signify.”

The object of his admiration was Berlin-based Filipino baritone Jonathan Zaens, “a singer of the uncommon kind,” who has just released a “stunning” CD called Kundiman—Philippine Art Songs.

“Produced by Sundro Keller and recorded in St. Paulus Germende Grosser Saal in Berlin, the CD features kundiman compositions of Nicanor Abelardo, Francisco Santiago, Mike Velarde Jr. and Resurreccion Bunyi... [Zaens] is superbly accompanied by pianist Abelardo Galang II, also based in Berlin,” wrote Mr. Tariman.

“The bass baritone has a way with words and phrases that blend with the music to magnificent results. The arrangement of Cayabyab has given the kundiman a new life and a contemporary feel. Still, the lyrics and the music find an astounding interpretation in the vocal gift of Zaens.”

“From Velarde’s 'Habang Buhay' (with guitar accompaniment by Chris Borela) to Santiago’s 'Cancion Filipina' (arranged by Eudenice Palaruan and with distinguished piano accompaniment by Galang), Zaens brings back to life a treasure trove of now nearly forgotten Philippine art songs...”

The CD's liner notes include this explanation by Mr. Galang II that helps us listen to the kundiman with new ears: “Kundiman is an art song that embodies love and tenderness, bitterness and heartbreak. The word kundiman is a contraction of the phrase "kung hindi man," meaning, “should it not be so.” In other words, should the lover find his love unrequited, he must resign himself to his fate and would rather die. The kundiman is usually written in triple time with two sections: the first part in a minor key with a rather calm, sweet and tender mood, the second part in a tonic major with a more dramatic spirit, bursting into a climax with which the piece culminates.”

And who is Jonathan Zaens?

“A prizewinner of the 7th Sylvia Geszty International Voice Competition, Zaens is also a finalist at the Bach International Competition and the Mendelssohn Voice Competition,” explained Mr. Tariman. “After finishing his studies in Voice/Music Theater at the University of the Arts in Berlin, he was heard at the Prague State Opera singing the Mozart roles of Leporello and Guglielmo on top of guest appearances in the Berliner Chamber Opera and other opera houses in Germany.”

Mr. Zaens was in Manila last month for a concert called “Virtuosos 2008” at the CCP, where he performed with fellow classical artists--soprano Camille Lopez Molina, mezzo soprano Clarissa Ocampo, tenors Nolyn Cabahug and Randy Gilongo, countertenor Mark Anthony Carpio, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, visiting French bass baritone Jerome Correas, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Because the concert was held on a Friday night, our heaviest time at work, there was no way I could watch the show. Mr. Zaens would hold a smaller recital a few days later, and still I failed to make it. It was a big letdown; I had heard from friends how good he was in “Virtuosos.” They were high not only on Mr. Zaens' sublime singing, but also on the fact that he was very good-looking and charismatic on stage. “The Piolo Pascual of classical music” was the verdict of no less than that one-man entertainment conglomerate, Floy Quintos.

My one consolation: Mr. Zaens' brother Chris is a friend, and he gave me a copy of the CD. I'd like to share with you the first three tracks of the album (all by Nicanor Abelardo, and all arranged by Ryan Cayabyab), because “The first three songs... are key to the still largely unheralded vocal artistry of Zaens,” wrote Mr. Tariman.

Sorry, they're not downloadable (copyright restrictions), but do enjoy listening to them here. “By far, the CD is one of the best recordings of Filipino songs ever to come out and definitely one of the best interpretations you can find in the dry landscape of recorded Filipino music,” concludes Mr. Tariman.

Thank you for the CD, Chris. And “Bravo!,” Jonathan Zaens.


beektur said...

the piolo pascual of classical music?!?! if zaens is as good as tariman claims, i think that statement is an insult. mwahahaha.

agwe23 said...

amazing vocals. will the cd be sold locally?

Anonymous said...

In our Spanish 20 class, our teacher would ask him to sing and he would oblige, rocking Palma Hall with Why Do the Nations Rage (Händel). I was in love--a beautiful face and an even more beautiful voice.


failed misanthrope said...

What a full, warm, generous voice! And the singing is not stridently "operatic"--perfect for the Kundiman! Hmmm... baka after this CD magkaroon ng resurgence ang kundiman sa Pinoy popular music! Thanks for sharing this, Gibbs.

Beektur, I agree. Piolo Pascual ... uh, please. Just give him ten or twenty years and I see Mr. Pascual going the way of Rustom Padilla. Cheers!

beektur said...

just to clarify: i am not referring to piolo pascual's sexuality as the cause for insult. i really don't mind if he goes any which way he chooses in the future, it's his business. but merely using appearance as a point of comparison is superficial, cursory and unfair -- to both. and that makes the statement an insult. summarizing, i really haven't understood this practice of labeling artists after others. "mariah carey of the philippines"? "the new sharon cuneta"? basta ya!

ronald brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
failed misanthrope said...

Yes, and I wasn't referring to Rustom Padilla as a homosexual, but as a matinee idol has been.

But there's ambiguity in the allusion, I grant you that. *Wink wink.*

gibbs cadiz said...

BEEKTUR, strictly on the basis of looks--and more importantly, it was said in jest. sorry if that wasn't clear in my text. :)

AGWE23, yes, the cd will be available at Fully Booked starting next week. yey! :)

woohoo, beautiful voice and beautiful face indeed, CHRIS! :)

FAILED MISANTHROPE, help spread the word around? this is a wonderful cd, shouldn't languish in obscurity. :)

failed misanthrope said...

Hi Gibbs!

Yesterday I went to Astrovideo and to the department store record section in SM North EDSA.

Wala silang kopya nitong record na'to!

Is it only available in CCP?

gibbs cadiz said...

hi, heard from jonathan's bro that it will be available in Fully Booked starting this coming week. :)

Anonymous said...

Im still trying to find where to purchase this wonderful masterpiece. can you please help me. thanks

gibbs cadiz said...

hi ANONYMOUS, it's supposed to be carried by fully booked. have you tried it there? :)

Anonymous said...

Can you also please post the other songs that he recorded? I'm dying to hear them. Im here abroad and dont have any way to buy the CD. Pls Post them.

DJ Bolivs said...

I got a hold of a copy at last (I live in the US) hand-delivered by Jonathan's brother christian who happened to visit San Francisco. It is truly stunning !!!

Btw does anyone remember the Christmas album made by Ryan Cayabyab during the 90s? I am trying to get hold of a copy of it. I used to have a tape of it...

Anonymous said...

ok, the songs are not downloadable for copyright reasons. so, how can i get the cd? is it available anywhere online? thanks!

gibbs cadiz said...

ANONYMOUS, try fully booked. it's the only one that carries the cd. i hope it still has copies. :)

jani said...

hi, i am another visitor... i tried but they don't have it. do you know where else i can get it?


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