Instrumentalist - Piano
Licad-Gerhardt a superb partnership
THE WEATHER miraculously cleared on the night Cecile Licad and cellist Alban Gerhardt appeared for the first time together in a recital (September 15) and during their much-awaited concert with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (September 16) under Oscar Yatco.

In what could be the chamber music event of the year, Licad and Gerhardt showed what musical rapport was all about in an evening of Janacek ("Fairy Tales," 1923 version), Beethoven (A Major Sonata, Op. 69) and the Shostakovich warhorse. The performance was greeted by deafening cheers and applause.

They also rendered solo pieces which highlighted their individual artistry. Seamless and truly divine was Licad's interpretation of Chopin's Scherzo No. 3. Gerhardt uncovered the least known musical qualities of the cello in Ligetti's solo sonata.

The night's crowning glory was no doubt Beethoven's A Major Sonata, which showed how artists could make something noble and indescribably profound with music-making on a superior level.

The concluding Shostakovich sonata revealed how technique and musicianship could merge and explode into something mind-blowing.

To show they were not just serious musicians, the duo ended their several encores with the cellist abandoning his cello and joining Licad on the piano in a gleeful version of Hungarian Rhapsody, which wasn't note-perfect for Gerhardt but elicited cheering reminiscent of rock concerts.

Now, who says chamber music can't rock?

Dazzling musicianship

The following evening, Gerhardt was ravishingly brilliant in Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto while Licad rendered Prokofiev's Third Concerto with such depth of interpretative power seldom seen on the CCP concert stage.

For Gerhardt, the pressure to make something of the Shostakovich concerto was heavy. Except for the inner circle of musicians - nobody has heard of this cello concerto. But my pessimism soon gave way to excitement.

The cellist not only had focus but a quality of musicianship that dazzled even those who aren't certified cello lovers.

"I thought the cello was such a depressing instrument until I heard Gerhardt," said Charito Esquela Buban from Tabaco, Albay.

As for the Prokofiev concerto, Licad showed not just power and precision but also gave the piece such varied coloring unknown in previous Manila performances of this concerto. For the audience initially wary of this unpopular concerto, Licad's rendering turned into the musical rediscovery of the first order.

Yatco and the Philippine Philharmonic managed to be at par with the celebrated soloists. There were nervous moments on the first movements of the Shostakovich and Prokofiev concertos, but the extraordinary soloists probably brought out the best in the conductor and the orchestra.

The last Chopin encore (a Chopin etude popularly known as "No Other Love") summed up what Licad wanted to convey to her audiences: that music can reach out to everyone and provide the much-needed balm to the spirit in a country embroiled in endless political wrangling.

In tears

The Licad audience didn't come only from Manila. An entourage from Holy Angel University in Angeles City came when they found out CCP could not be asked to share Licad with provincial audiences.

The mother of Rochit Tañedo came all the way from Pampanga. One Dr. Ferdinand Pacuribot flew all the way from Palawan to watch Licad. An entire officialdom from Nueva Ecija led by Mayor Nestor Alvarez came.

A few came in wheelchairs, among them concert organizer Alfredo Mendoza, who was in tears throughout Licad's performance.

On the whole, the Licad-Gerhardt concerts were welcome respite from the controversies that hounded CCP in the past two months. The concerts clearly showed that music when interpreted by superior artists was beyond politics.

Quite a sight was CCP vice president and artistic director Raul Sunico greeting Licad with a kiss after the recital.

Pablo Tariman, Philippine Daily Inquirer
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