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    Cagayan de Oro-based music professors adjudged one of world best classical composers

    by Tito Mike

    World Classical Music composers competition settled with 3-way tie

    CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – After a  year’s delay, the organizers of the 2022 WorldVision Composers Contest finally decided to declare a tie for second place among the three finalists.

    In a letter dated October 1, 2023 to Horst Hans Bäcker (representing the Philippines), Rod Schejtman (Argentina), and Claudio H. Martinez Garcia (Mexico), the organizers  admitted there were internal and external factors which disrupted their sponsorship relations and revealed the shortcomings of their audience voting system.

    Horst Hans Bäcker as conductor of the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra.

    While acknowledging the outcome of the competition was not ideal, the committee nevertheless maintained the importance of recognizing the efforts, exceptional talent and hard work of the three finalists.

    Thus, after “extended and vigorous discussions”, the organizing committee settled on equally dividing the 2nd place award of 15,000 Euros among the three finalists.

    Johann Bäcker

    “I think we are really on an equal level and so it’s quite fair to declare a tie,” Bäcker said of the committee’s decision.  “It was great feeling: happy, proud and thankful to God, my father, and my mentors.”

    Horst Hans Bäcker with a photo of his late father Johann who influenced his career in music.

    The competition that sought to find the world’s most talented contemporary classical composers originally expected to announce the winners on September 18, 2022 with the winning composition to be performed by the Symphony Nova Orchestrer Wien during the final Gala Concert of the WorldVision Music Contest at the Vienna Konzerthaus.

    To reach the finals, the three finalists had to go through three competitive rounds.

    For the first round, the composers were given a free choice of genre and form for an instrumental composition. Bäcker was selected on October 4, 2021, as one of the best composers who qualified for the second round with his Banaue Rhapsody.

    In the second round of the competition the composers were asked to submit a chamber music piece for any number of instruments up to 12, and Bäcker qualified for the semifinals with his entry F͚ür Sophie.

    Horst Hans Bäcker and collegues salutes Dame Marinela Velez, Patron of the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra after their inaugural performance.

    Finally, the remaining composers were each asked to submit a piece for a symphonic orchestra, and Bäcker successfully hurdled it with his composition Fantasia for Orchestra, emerging on May 20 as one of the three best composers to qualify for the finals.

    Beginnings

    Born in 1959 to German parents in Bucharest, Romania, Bäcker took his first piano lessons at age five with Tamas Vesmas.

    “When I was only 15, I started to compose during the breaks of my daily piano practices. I told my piano teacher about it and he seemed quite happy with what he saw, since he asked me to compose more. In this way I gradually transitioned to studying composition besides merely studying to become a concert pianist.”

    In the summer of 1973 Bäcker moved to Germany with his parents where he studied composition from 1980-1983 with Professor Ludwig Werner Weiand at the Conservatory in Wuppertal.  He continued his composition lessons with Prof. Gyula Horvath from 1983-1985 at the Mozarteum,  and completed his Masters in Composition from 1986 to 1989 under Professor Jürg Baur at the Rhineland Academy of Music in Cologne.. He also studied Conducting with Professor Kurt Prestel, and Performance Practice of Early Music with Professor Nikolaus Harnoncourt from 1983 to 1986. He completed his formation as a conductor in Master Classes with Jorma Panula.

    In 1996 Bäcker founded the Internationale Philharmonie and was appointed its Principal Conductor. He has been a regular guest conductor for the Arad Philharmonic OrchestraBanatul Philharmonic Orchestra in Timisoara, Moldova Philharmonic Orchestra in Iasi, and Oradea, Sibiu and Craiova Philharmonic Orchestras in Romania, the Northern Hungarian Symphony Orchestra in Hungary, and for the choir and orchestra of Camerata Antiqua de Curitiba (Brazil).

    He has established long-term musical partnerships with numerous soloists he has worked with, like panpipes players Gheorghe Zamfir and Matthias Schlubeck; violinists Christina AnghelescuBogdan DragusSophie Moser and Sebastian Casleanu; Canadian guitarist Dale Kavanagh, the German-Canadian Amadeus Guitar Duo, theBritish Eden-Stell Guitar Duo, and with pianists Katja HuhnEkaterina LitvintsevaMihai Ungureanu and Tamas Vesmas.

    Since 2003 he has been permanent guest conductor of Arad State Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Philharmonic Orchestra “Oltenia” in Craiova, and permanent guest conductor of the State Philharmonic Orchestra “Banat” since 2006.

    He was commissioned by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Timisoara to compose and perform a work for choir and orchestra, Rapsodia Timisoreana, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Romanian State Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Rapsodia Timisoreana includes tributes to Romanian Composer George Enescu and Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, and was enthusiastically received by the members of the choir and the orchestra as well as by the audience.

    L-R Horst-Hans Bäcker, daughter Sophie, Mom Regina, and Wife Josefe. (Backer Family Photo)

    L-R Horst-Hans Bäcker ‘s daughter Sophie and Mother Regina hold up photos of his father Johann, as wife Josefe looks on. (Backer Family Album)

    Bäcker has been commissioned to compose music by musicians and chamber ensembles from all over the world, as well as music for special occasions by various European cities.  

    With his composition Aus Der Tiefe Ruf Ich, Herr, Zu Dir (From the Depth I Cry Out to You Lord), Bäcker won the prestigious De Profundis Composer’s Composition in Cologne, Germany in 1988.

    Bäcker also conducts orchestras in Europe, Brazil and the Philippines.

    Influences

    “While all of my mentors had a profound influence on my compositions, I also undertook an intensive study of all the works of  J.S. Bach,” Bäcker recalls. “Among the classical composers, J. S. Bach influenced me the most because his music is the foundation for all music after his time until now, and all great composers of the music history were influenced by him.”

    But perhaps most of all, he thanks his father Johann for setting him on his road to music.

    “My father was my main supporter since I started with the music until he passed away. Without him I would not be a musician. And without him, I would not have all the great opportunities to study with the great musicians who mentored and influenced me.”

    Johann Bäcker was a third generation musician from a village in Deutsch-Stamora, one of two German regions in Romania.  He learned to play the clarinet against his father’s wishes who wanted him to learn a ‘real profession’. It was only when he became a member of the Romanian State Orchestra and State Film Orchestra he finally confessed to his father he how had  become a professional musician just like his forebears.

    He met his wife Regina when out dancing with friends from the Dance Hall Orchestra in Bucharest, and two years after their wedding, had their only child Horst-Hans in 1959.

    Unlike his father, Johann would bring Horst to orchestra rehearsals, and had him learn piano when he was 5. With his nurturing, the youngster eventually developed a heart for music and just like generations of his kin before him, become a professional musician.  

    Compositions

    Since he completed his Master’s degree at the Cologne College of Music, Bäcker has been commissioned to compose music by musicians and chamber ensembles worldwide.

    His first CD Spanish Night was released in 1999 and was enthusiastically received by the critics, as was the following CD Spanish Night Ii, which includes his own work for orchestra Rapsodia Mallorquina.

    This was followed by the CD Berühmte Opernarien – Panflöte und Orchester with the soloist Gheorghe Zamfir and the CD ZauberPANflöte with the panflutist Matthias Schlubeck.

    Bäcker ‘s arrangements for choir and orchestra of works by some bands such as the Beatles, Queen, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Supertramp and others, have been performed several times in sold-out concerts, some of them open air concerts with more than 25,000 enthusiastic listeners, inspiring young people to aspire for choir with symphony orchestra.

    In 2020 his piano composition Fantasie über Ludwig van Beethoven (Vol. 8 of the Sheet Music Edition) was accepted by Susanne Kessel of Bonn, Germany opus 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven from all over the world celebrating the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday.

    Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

    In May 2016, Bäcker moved to Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines as a professor for Composition, Conducting and Historical Performance at the Liceo Conservatory of Music, Theatre & Dance upon the invitation of Dr. Rudolf Caesar Golez, Dean, and Liceo U Chairperson Dr. Rafaelita Pelaez.   He was also tasked to create a music curriculum of European standard.

    Since 2017 he has been a Permanent Guest Conductor of the Classic Youth Orchestra in Cebu, then was designated as Principal Conductor of the newly established Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra in 2018.

    “I think it’s important to say that as a Composer and Conductor one can live wherever in the world and still continue his career,” he replied on what made him choose the Philippines as his current residence.

    “I discovered there are many talented young people here in the Philippines and they are willing to learn, so it was easy for me to decide to stay forever and share my musical experience,” he added. “I think the local music industry is fast developing in the field of classical music and I’m happy to be a part of this.”

    Future Plans

    Bäcker plans to finish composing his current project of a “Big Cycle of Concertos” for various solo instruments with orchestra, after which he mulls composing his first opera.

    He has lived in Cagayan de Oro City since 2016 with his Mother Regina, Filipina wife Josefe and daughter Sophie.

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