Instrumentalist - Piano
Symphony: Licad Woos and Wows TSO Audience
From those big, double-handed chords with which Tchaikovsky opens his Piano Concerto #1, it was clear who was in charge of the second half of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's concert Feb. 7, at the Tucson Music Hall.

It was undeniably the piano soloist Cecile Licad. She, not musical director and conductor George Hanson, set the constrained and dramatic tempo, and it was clear that she was not to be hurried, as Hanson had done a bit with the first half of the program.

Her performance was pure crystal, light on the sustaining pedal so the runs and arpeggios sparkled and with that incredible left hand with which Licad provides the strong counterpoint to the lyrical Tchaikovsky melodies mostly carried by the right hand. It is so easy to forget the left hand in such 19th century romantically beautiful melodies. Licad is not so seduced. Nor does she need to affect her sensitive and dramatic readings of the music. One hears in her playing the thinking she does with the score. She needs no hand, head and body flourishes. It is all in the playing.

The first movement was crisp, clean, clear - reminiscent of a fine chilled viognier wine like the blend Callaghan calls Lisa's - taken with a late spring luncheon. The composer marked the first movement "Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso" - fast but not too much and very majestic. It was all of those. The buttery Chardonnay came with the second movement - silken runs and strong arpeggios. Both the composer and the soloist saved the champagne for the end - effervescent, fermented in the bottle, dosaged over the 44 years Licad has been studying and playing. It was quite a tasting, and the audience responded appropriately. Licad has charmed TSO audiences before, and one would hope will again many times in the future.

A symphony audience is sometimes puzzled with why a given program has been put together. What is it that these pieces of music have to do with each other? Is it just that they add up to the requisite two hours of performance time? The almost-all-Tchaikovsky program Feb. 7 provided a satisfying unity and commonality that was comforting in its familiarity. Japanese painting masters teach that the most stark black and white brush painting needs a spot of red somewhere in the composition to provide spark and highlight. Hanson's spot of red was the "Polovtsian Dances" from Borodin's opera "Prince Igor." It was a welcome contrast to the "Suite from Swan Lake" which opened the evening and provided yet another opportunity for the Symphony Chorus to perform.

The ensemble sings well under Professor Bruce Chamberlain's tutelage, but the acoustics of the Music Hall make it all too risky for the orchestra to overwhelm them, as it did somewhat Feb. 7. It was still most rewarding to have the vocal additions, however, accustomed as listeners are to the many recordings of the work with orchestra only. The English text was helpfully provided. The evening was all very romantic and 19th century, just right for approaching Valentine's Day. It was well supported by subscribers, winter visitors and other lovers.

Donald Behnke, Green Valley News (AZ)
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