Instrumentalist - Piano
Licad wows New York, Arizona
Cecile Licad greeted 2009 with a well-received concert at the Rockefeller Center in New York that had critics and audiences gushing.

"With that performance, you have joined the league of the world's greatest pianists," music critic Harris Goldsmith told the Filipina pianist.

Goldsmith is the 70-year-old pianist and teacher at the Mannes School of Music. He is a valued coach to young pianists such as Licad, Jenny Lin and Klára Würtz.

Licad was heard again as soloist of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in Arizona on Feb. 7, playing the Tchaikovsky B Flat Concerto.

Her Tucson return engagement was championed by TSO conductor George Hanson who recalled the euphoric patrons' reaction to Licad's performance of a Saint-Saëns concerto less than a year ago.

Music critic Donald Behnke wrote:

"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 ... 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."

"Licad has charmed TSO audiences before, and one would hope will again many times in the future."

In a pre-concert interview, Licad told music writer Jonathan Lowe how her drive for perfection started. "I was five when I started, and my father used to wake me up at 5 in the morning to get me to practice. He was a doctor, very strict, but my mother was the pianist, although not a professional. Funny, I remember when she would try to show me something about playing, I would always say, ‘I could do that better.' (Laughs.) Very confident for a 5-year-old."

Licad told the interviewer the process of becoming a pianist came naturally to her at a young age: " I don't know how the process works, or how to describe it. I was never good at expressing myself articulately in words, but the piano was there, and that was definitely my medium of expression."

Big production

The Filipino pianist described the Tchaikovsky concerto as "like a big production, a blockbuster movie or soap opera, like with big ranges of emotion when you see the whole work."

Licad said playing music was not just about notes but telling a story and communicating with the audience.: "I always relate music to telling a story, all the gradations of knowing how to build to the climax somehow. That's the difficulty of it, because most pianists who play this piece, they think it's for showing how fast or how loud you can play it. Of course, there are moments like an earthquake, but that's really not the important thing."

Licad said that even if she had played the concerto countless times, the challenge was to make it fresh and more. "Because whenever I play, I always have to find something challenging about it. Sometimes, for a performer, things can almost become too easy, and you think you can do everything, but then you always have to be imaginative, too, even regarding the technical aspects. So each time you play is new, like something you discover ... "

Any "horror" story involving the Tchaikovsky concerto?

"Well, when I was 15 or 16, I once played a command performance for then First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, and she wanted me to prepare for just the last movement of the Tchaikovsky concerto. Well, for a concert like this, we didn't normally play the whole concerto, and so I was waiting for the entrance of the orchestra for this last movement, and they just started playing the first movement! I didn't know that she told the conductor that she wanted to show me off playing these long passages of octaves. So I was completely shocked, but I still had to play it. Mrs. Marcos just wanted what she wanted, and then afterward, it was like, ‘I got you,' but in a joking way."

Pablo Tariman, Philippine Daily Inquirer
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