music awards

Cagayan de Oro-based music professor named one of world’s best classical composers

Mike Baños

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Cagayan de Oro-based music professor named one of world’s best classical composers
Originally from Romania, Horst Hans Bäcker co-founded the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra in 2018 and continues to serve as its conductor

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 its three finalists.

In a letter to the three finalists sent on October 1 – Horst Hans Bäcker of the Philippines, Rod Schejtman of Argentina, and Claudio Martinez Garcia of Mexico – the contest’s organizers admitted that there were issues with sponsorship relations and shortcomings in their audience voting system which caused the delay.

While acknowledging that the outcome of the competition was not ideal, the committee maintained the importance of recognizing the exceptional talent and hard work of the three finalists, settling on equally dividing the second place award of 15,000 euros among them.

“I think we are really on an equal level and so it’s quite fair to declare a tie,” the 64-year-old Bäcker, born in Romania to German parents but now based in Cagayan de Oro, said of the committee’s decision. “It was great feeling: happy, proud, and thankful to God, my father, and my mentors.”

The competition that sought to find the world’s most talented contemporary classical composers was 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.

The competition

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 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 with his entry F͚ür Sophie.

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, 2022 as one of the three composers qualified for the finals.

Why the Philippines?

In May 2016, Bäcker moved to Cagayan de Oro as a professor for Composition, Conducting, and Historical Performance at the Liceo Conservatory of Music, Theatre, and Dance, upon the invitation of Dean Rudolf Caesar Golez and Chairperson Rafaelita Pelaez. There, he was tasked to create a music curriculum that met European standards.

Since 2017 he has been a Permanent Guest Conductor of the Classic Youth Orchestra in Cebu. In 2018, Bäcker co-founded the Cagayan de Oro Symphony Orchestra and continues to serve as its conductor.

“I think its important to say that, as a composer and conductor, one can live wherever in the world and still continue his career,” he said, when asked 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.”

“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,” he added.

With him in Cagayan de Oro are his mother Regina, Filipina wife Josefe, and daughter Sophie.

Bäcker’s backstory

Born to German parents in Bucharest, Romania in 1959, Bäcker took his first piano lessons at age five and studied composition with Ludwig Werner Weiand from 1980 to 1983 at the Conservatory in Wuppertal, Germany.

“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.”

He continued his studies with Gyula Horvath from 1983 to 1985 at the Mozarteum, and from 1986 to 1989 with Jürg Baur in Cologne, and later with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Jorma Panula.

“While all of my mentors had a profound influence on my compositions, I also undertook an intensive study of all the works of Johann Sebastian Bach,” Bäcker recalls. “Among the classical composers, 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.”

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 compositions have been played all over Europe, and his CD recordings have been appreciated all over the world. 

Aside from his compositions, Bäcker has been delighting audiences with his choir and symphonic orchestra featuring the works of famous bands like The Beatles, Queen, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and Supertramp.

Bäcker plans to finish composing his current project, A Big Cycle of Concertos, for various solo instruments with orchestra, after which he is mulling composing his first opera. –

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