Friday, July 22, 2011

Spotlight on Ernesto Vallejo

The Filipino Violin Virtuoso

A Golden Era
The young Ernesto Vallejo

The early 1900 could well be describe as a golden era in Philippine Art and Culture. It was indeed the generation of a new breed of outstanding young artists and they came from every sector of discipline in the arts in our country.

 It was the period when literary giants such as Claro Mayo Recto, Jesus Balmori, Manuel Bernabe etc. filled the journals of Manila with their castillian prose and verses.

 It was also a time of new opportunities as artist,  like foremost Filipino painter Fernando Amorsolo , on a grant from the Zobels,  made his way to Europe and America for further training in painting.

Jose Nepomuceno was starting his movie making enterprise, turning a popular zarzuela opus into the first full length filipino film 'Dalagang Bukid.

Manila that time was not only a bustling American run city, it was also a mecca for arts and culture in South East Asia, where famous international artists came and performed.

Enter the Child Protege

In the field of music,  in the early 1920's, a wonder boy caused  a stir. He did not only caught the eye of  local artists and music enthusiasts but also fancied the attention of some renown visiting international artists of that time. The wonder boy was Ernesto Fausto Vallejo, probably  the greatest filipino violinist in the early part of the 20th century.

Born in Manila on December 19 1909,  Vallejo  started his musical training from his parents.  His father Jose Vallejo of Ilocos,  was himself a violinist and was for a long time,  leader of the Army and Navy Club Orchestra. His mother Feliza Arriola of mixed Bisayan/Capiz and Tagalog roots,  was a skilled  harpist. The sixth in the brood of twelve, three of Ernesto's brother played the piano while a sister was an accomplished singer. (Fely Vallejo, became an actress and was married to Filipino Film director Gerry de Leon )

It was said that at age 7,  Enesto Vallejo's first violin of his size was a present from Maestro Marcelo Adonay

Vallejo spent his primary schooling at Santa Cruz Primary School and from there went to Mabini Intermediate School and later to Manila North High School. He was always presented in music programs in those institutions. He was also featured at a very young age at the Zorilla Theather,  the Army and Navy Club and at the Columbia Club, not only on the violin, but also on the guitar, an instrument he also mastered.

His talent was soon noticed by the likes of Prof. Adonay and Prof Bonifacio Abdon, studying the violin for years with the latter under the auspices of the Asociacion Musical de Filipinas. Fondly called "Vallejito" by his peers due to his short stature, visiting renowned artists who saw him perform would soon notice and give their accolades.

Michel Piastro (one-time Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic) heard him play in Manila when he was 13 and said:  "It is a crime that this child should continue here longer. Of the 11 million Filipinos, I am sure there is only one Vallejo. What is more, I doubt that in the entire Malay race he has his equal."

Mischa Elman: "No time should be lost in sending young Vallejo to the United States. To fail to do so would be to lose a genius who will bring honor to the Philippines.
Mischa Elman

With the help of filipino philantropist and Art patron Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin, the Philippine government granted Vallejo a scholarship. On Oct 1923 at the age of fourteeen, he left the country as a pensionado and remained in the US for six years. (Probably the youngest government pensionado in philippine history)

To the US
Franz Kneisel

Ernesto Vallejo studied under renowned violinist Franz Kneisel, while also continuing his high school education at Riverside Country School, New York.

Vallejo related that when Kneisel saw him play and listen to him for the first time, he immediately took him into his class instead of assigning him to one of his assistant teachers. Vallejo then continued: "However, he told me not to be offended, but my bowing was all wrong, and that the secret of the great violinist lies in the bowing. He made me practice one bar for two weeks to two months, over and over again. Every moment in the bowing and fingering had to be perfect. I practiced seven hours a day. But everything went smoothly and only a year afterwards, I made my debut at Palm Beach."

In 1926,  Franz Kneisel died. Vallejo then continued his violin study under Sascha Jacobsen, a pupil of Kneisel.

In March 1929,  for his graduation concert,  Ernesto Vallejo was presented at Town Hall, New York. He performed Edouard Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole and Brahms' Sonata in A major.


In September 1929, Vallejo returned to Manila and did a homecoming concert at the Manila Grand Opera House.

Dr. Alexander Lippay
Dr. Alexander Lippay ( MSO founder),  at that time, in a description of Vallejo artistry said: "He plays everything with soul and his interpretation is always intelligent. His tone and modulation are beautiful,  and his bowing technique masterful. There is no question about his talent. Although  only 20 years old, he plays with the maturity of a man of forty. It is phenomenal!"

Ernesto Vallejo would then devote his career in the Philippines in perfomance and teaching. He is remembered having been the maestro of some of the finest violinists and violin pedagogues in the country. (before and during World War II)

In 1938,  Vallejo was featured in the film "Bahay Kubo" by Gerry de Leon playing the role of a violinist. It starred his sister Fely Vallejo, as a poor girl who became a successful opera singer, playing opposite Rogelio de la Rosa. It gave the Filipinos that time a rare chance to see and hear the genius of Vallejo in the violin. (Via silver screen)

Tragic End

In the Japanese occupation, when Manila was fast becoming a place of scarcity. Ernesto Vallejo and his family were invited by a patron/friend from Tanauan, Batangas to evacuate to the said province.

On February 10 1945, in a horrendous case of Japanese brutaltity,  just when the American liberation forces were approaching  the province of Laguna and Batangas, a number of civilians were gunned down in the town of Tanauan, massacred by the panicking Japanese soldiers. Among the victims were Ernesto Vallejo and his family.

Eyewitness account later claimed,  Vallejo raised his hands to show who he was and that he was not armed. Probably thinking that the officer in command would recognize him as the violinist who gave them concerts in the leading houses of Tanauan. But still the Japanese shot him.

Thus end the life of one of the outstanding filipino artist, who could have given the country more of his artistry,  had he lived longer.... Indeed a genius and a talent gone to nothingness.

In the Philippines, few people remember Ernesto Fausto Vallejo now,  except perhaps his living students and the people he touched with his music.

Listen to Ernesto Vallejo's  HABANERA FILIPINA NO.1
Performed by Carmencita Lozada (Violin) 
                       Cermen Sipin (Piano)
Click here to listen:  HABANERA No.1 by Ernesto Vallejo


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