Instrumentalist - Piano
Acclaim
Licad performs with power
The concert world is full of deceptive appearances, but few more striking than that of pianist Cecile Licad -- who looks delicate, and plays like a powerhouse. The Philippine-born Licad, now 46, has sometimes drawn criticism for those powerhouse tendencies; the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, however, fits her like a glove (even if there's occasionally an iron fist in that glove).

Licad played the popular concerto with extraordinary clarity and power, settling into the performance after some discreet seesawing with conductor Gerard Schwarz over the tempo. The surging romanticism of the score was evident in every line of her performance, and the audience made their delight clear with a lengthy standing ovation.

The evening, which marked the start of the official subscription concerts (after the Sept. 15 opening-night gala), opened with the "Star-Spangled Banner," followed by a world premiere: the orchestral version of Bright Sheng's "Tibetan Love Songs." Attractively scored by this former Seattle Symphony resident composer, the music nonetheless suggests war more than love, with lots of brass and percussion accents that sound more violent than amorous.

The program's finale, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, found the orchestra in imposingly good shape. Schwarz's robust tempi and shifting dynamics underscored the compelling subtlety of the woodwind solos. The third movement was particularly well nuanced.

It was an especially good night for bassoonist Seth Krimsky and oboist Ben Hausmann, as well as guest New York clarinetist Jon Manasse. The horns were solid; principal trombonist Ko-ichiro Yamamoto and guest trumpeter Anthony diLorenzo made stylish contributions.

The hall was unusually full for a Thursday subscription program, except for the nearly-empty Third Tier, where this year's huge jump in ticket prices seems to have induced subscribers there to move -- or stay home.
Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times
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