The unbearable heat and humidity outside Meralco Theater didn't dampen the spirit of Manila's music lovers who gave Paraguay guitar icon Berta Rojas a standing ovation after the last section of Agustin Pio Barrios Mangore's "La Catedral," which left no doubt about the immense stature of the visiting artist.
Opening with Manuel Ponce's five-part "Suite in A Minor" and proceeding to a guitar transcription of "Estrellita" and "Scherzino Mexicano," Rojas probably doubled the number of classical guitar fans here with her natural stage presence and superb technique which didn't call attention to itself.
"Her performance is beyond technique, and everything you see is her art and soul," said Irene Marcos Araneta, a musician herself. "With the rarity of guitar concerts in the country, her recital is a big learning process for everyone not familiar with classical guitar repertoire."
A real dazzler was Rojas' performance of "Suite Americana," especially written for her by the English composer Vincent Lindsey Clark. Earlier, a Filipino guitar trio opened the concert with Paolo Bellinati's "Baiao de Gude." The group showed spontaneity and musical flair. Gemma Cruz Araneta posted on her Facebook page: "Pablo, they should be called Triple Threat, not Triple Fret. They are simply good." Filipino prize-winning classical guitarist Ramoncito Carpio also gave everyone an inkling of his very personal kind of artistry with an astounding rendition of Astor Piazzolla's "Primavera Porteña." Rojas thanked the Filipino audience for a very warm welcome. "Guitar is alive in your country and at the rate Filipinos figure in guitar competitions abroad, I can see a good future for guitar in the Philippines," she said. With the never-ending applause and cheers, Rojas gave an endearing encore, Ernani Cuenco's "Gaano Kita Kamahal." It brought the house down.