The music of Julio Nakpil, a Pinoy renaissance man, is the subject of an ongoing retrospective series titled “The Music of Julio Nakpil.”

The series has already released two robust collections namely “The Music of Julio Nakpil (1867-1960) Volume 1 & 2: Works for Piano.”

But as music masters go, two albums just won’t cover the works of a prime artist. Hence volumes III and IV: “Works for Voice and Chamber Ensemble” and “Works for Band and Orchestra” respectively.

But who is Julio Nakpil? And why do we care? Well, Nakpil is a composer out of the past. He was a revolutionary, a Katipunero—and a general at that—who fought against the Spanish in the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and has seen firsthand the tumult of the succeeding occupations of the Americans and the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century. But throughout, Nakpil managed to carve a body of work that is still celebrated today, more than a century and a half after his birth. And these collections are standing proof to his massive contribution to Philippine classical music.

Each record focuses on a different aspect of Nakpil’s works. “Volume III” in particular spotlights Nakpil’s “Works for Voice and Chamber Ensemble.”   And “Amor Patrio! Romanza” for voice, oboe and piano” is just the ticket for those who lean toward vocal classical music. This moody piece demonstrates Nakpil’s flair for the dramatic and this century-plus old composition (written in 1893) is brought to life again by soprano Jasmin Salvo, with Mari Angeli Nicholas’ oboe and on piano, Dingdong Fiel.

And while the album opener and the segue piece “Il Ramento (The remembrance)” seem to be serious sonic excursions, the mood eventually lightens starting with the celebratory “Himno (Hymn).” The latter’s intro seems to be a nod to Mozart, but nonetheless stands on its own.

This and hymnals such as “Marangal Dalit bg Katagalugan (Hymno Nacional)” and the kundiman-like “Pag ibig (Love) Habanera” are sonic calling cards for sopranos Jasmin Salvo, tenor Radnel Ofalsa, and the UST choir Coro Tomasino. As the joyful “Luz Poetica de la Aurora” is for Reynato Resurreccion Jr.’s oboe. Volume III hotspot? “Danse Campestre: Habanera para concierto” with its classical romanticism and joyful cadence implied by Dingdong Fiel’s excellent piano work, as Christian Tan’s violin sings on top, easily takes the cake.  

“The Music of Julio Nakpil Volume IV:  Works for Band and Orchestra” meanwhile injects new vigor into the orchestral works of this Filipino music master. With the UST Symphonic Band and the UST Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera breathing life into pieces (ironically) to the funereal “Sueño Eterno, Marcha Funebre” and “Pahimakas! (Last Farewell) Marcha Funebre.” The latter is dedicated to the memory (and last moments) of Rizal.

“Volume IV” is also festive and jovial as heard on “Biak Na Bato: Paso-Doble,” “Expocision Regional” and “Salve Patria! (Hail Motherland) Gran Marcha.” The last one was written by Nakpil to commemorate Rizal’s 8th death anniversary that coincided with the inauguration of the Rizal monument.  

A project of the University of Santo Tomas Research Center for Culture, Arts and Humanities, and produced by Maria Alexandra Iñigo Chua, “The music of Julio Nakpil” is a definitive compendium of the works of a true Filipino music master.

Having said all that, It’s highly recommended to go back to Volumes I & II “Works For Piano” compositions written specially for the keyboard. Master pianist Raul Sunico performs all of Nakpil’s work and it is akin to hearing masters of two different era’s collaborating across time.

Truly world class all of them.  

Source: Manila Bulletin (