Chamber Works by Kagay-anon classical composer Niño Cesar Borromeo Tiro is finally here, and it is a musical tour-de-force of classical composition.
Tiro was earlier awarded a grant by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Competitive Grants Program by virtue of his Ani ng Dangal Award given during the 13th Philippine Arts Festival for his piano composition Phantasie für Ludwig performed by concert pianist Susanne Kessel for Volume 9 of her global composition project 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven which has become a crowd favorite during Kessel’s concerts and promotional tours in 2019.
The artist parlayed the grant into this NCCA-backed and produced album which highlights his fluency in the classical idiom, and mastery of melody and harmony from start to finish.
The album art by Chris Costello shows a learned person and his different sides and masks, a fitting tribute to the music in the album, all pieces with rhapsodic flair and a penchant for divine melody, not like anything else in the Philippine classical and the whole music scene in general.
The album opens with Ich Weiss, translated as I know, a lied (song) set to the poem’s text with the same title by German Romantic poet Clemens Brentano. The song sprinkles dashes of Schumann and Schubertian grandeur here and there. Nenen Espina, Soprano, sings with Mary Anne Espina, the collaborative pianist for the whole album.
Next up are the Neo-Classical and Neo-Romantic flavored Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, and Fantasy and Elegy, works meant to showcase the skills of the violin virtuosi duo Gina Medina Perez and Mary Anne Espina.
The Fantasy is a neo-classical piece filled with challenging passages and tricky runs. The second piece is an Elegy, a swan song for the composer’s father, who succumbed to cancer in 2011. It directly contrasts the first piece’s mood, filled with Romantic overtones, deep feelings, and musings for the lost loved one.
The Two Pieces for Cello and Piano, and Romance and Allegro for Cello and Piano are Romantic pieces in the style of Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms.
Both pieces are dedicated to the cellist Anjo Inacay.
The Romance is an early work written during the composer’s graduation year (for his first Bachelor of Music degree), originally for piano under the title Solace.
Solace is comfort in sorrow, and the piece evokes loneliness and resolution in its form. It is Schubertian in its episodes and themes, with a dash of the composer’s love for jazz harmonization. The Allegro is a powerful, passionate, unpredictable fantasy piece full of conflict, mood shifts, emotions, and utmost virtuosity.
Soundtrack for the Lucid Dreamer is one of the composer’s first attempts at making programmatic chamber music.
The minimalistic Suite for Cello and Piano suggests a modern, contemporary musical depiction of a lucid dreamer’s fleeting adventures in Slumberland.
Lull is the melody caressing the individual to fall into a deep slumber. Melancholy is the dream slowly falling into place. Alone is the feeling of being in the center of the darkness and thrown into the unwanted spotlight. Ripples is about the dream progressing and drifting into complexity and nothingness. And Last One Awake is the insomniac’s feelings and dreams coming true, awakening to the reality of restlessness and being consciously awake.
The Suite is dedicated to the composer’s wife, Ena, and the composer’s best friend, Emil, although the Suite is loosely based on the composer’s insomnia episodes happening now and then.
The composer hopes his works inspire budding composers to make music they love and spread the love for Classical music, a genre often neglected here in the Philippines. He is truly a hidden gem in Mindanao, a true-blue Kagay-anon, and a gentle cerebral giant that should be heard in the airwaves for centuries to come. This is history in the making, folks.
About the Composer
A true-blue Kagay-anon, Niño Cesar Borromeo Tiro was born and raised in Cagayan de Oro and starting piano lessons when he was five. Among his mentors were the late concert pianists and composer Lino Abrio and Anita Nita Velez Abrogar-Quinto.
Tiro was already flexing his musical chops even in school, graduating with High Honors in Bachelor of Music, Major in Music Education, Piano Principal at Lourdes College, and Magna Cum Laude at the Liceo de Cagayan University Conservatory of Music, Theater and Dance where he was mentored by world-renowned Composer/Conductor Prof. Horst-Hans Backer for his Bachelor of Music in Composition.
“In my decades of teaching Niño is my best composition student. I am therefore not surprised at his excellent compositions and I am very proud of the successes he has already achieved,” Prof. Bäcker notes.
Not confining himself to classical music, Tiro has indulged in an eclectic mix of music genres such as rock, blues, and jazz. He plays electric bass as a professional session player in various local bands, and as the Principal Double Bass Player of the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Prof. Bäcker.
He describes his music as anachronistic, eccentric, eclectic, and outright melodic. Heralded as a “composer born in the wrong time,” his music is described as “Neo-Classical and Neo-Romantic with a dash of the modern idiom.”
In 2004, his band’s song was a radio hit and was #1 for eight weeks on the local airwaves. He also worked as an OFW in Guam as The Life Teen Music Director of Santa Barbara Catholic Church.
Three of his works (Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D minor, Soundtrack for the Lucid Dreamer, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano) are now part of eScholarship Contemporary Music Score Collection, which is an open access publishing platform backed by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
In 2021, he co-wrote the soundtrack with Italian Violinist Tullio Vidmar for the restored 1911 Italian Silent film Pinocchio by the Ambasciata d’Italia Manila.
In 2022, his works were accepted for publication by the music publisher Universal Edition (UE) whose catalogue encompasses over 30,000 items ranging from the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, through the Second Viennese School and onto the post-war modern music composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio and Pierre Boulez and today’s contemporary music composers Wolfgang Rihm, Georg Friedrich Haas, Friedrich Cerha, to name a few.
UE is inseparably linked with the great composers and musical developments of the 20th and 21st centuries and has evolved into a future-oriented publishing house serving many of contemporary musical life’s most creative talents.
Tiro currently teaches Piano/Composition Music at the Liceo Conservatory of Music, Theatre and Dance, where he also serves as the Academic Chair of the Conservatory.
“Niño Cesar Tiro is not just a composer par excellence but a well-respected, team-player and professional colleague,” said Cipriano “Zip” de Guzman, Tiro’s multi-awarded colleague at the Conservatory more famously known as The Filipino Baritone. “ He is generous in sharing his artistry to his students as well as his ideas to his colleagues. His selflessness makes him a good team-player and academic chairman.” (Tito Mike)