Instrumentalist - Piano
Acclaim
International pianist to perform with Stamford Symphony
Cecile Licad found it hard to recall the exact moment she put her fingers to the keys and began playing the instrument for which she has earned international acclaim.

"I couldn't even remember how I started," she said.

She was, after all, 3.

Licad, who grew up in the Philippines, undoubtedly was inspired to try her hands at the piano while watching her mother, Rosario Licad, give piano lessons to others. Soon, Licad would take her place on the bench to study. Four years later, she was making her debut as a soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Philippines.

In 1973, when she was 12, she moved from Manila to Philadelphia to study at the Curtis Institute of Music. Her teachers included famed pianists Rudolf Serkin, Seymour Lipkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. She gained international attention in 1981, when she won the Leventritt Gold Medal at 19, one of the youngest recipients. Past winners have included Itzhak Perlman, Gary Graffman and Pinchas Zukerman.

Since then, she has performed on stages around the world, appearing with such orchestras as New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and others.

"I still love it like I was a kid," Licad said. "I'm always learning new things, new techniques, new ways to convey the music to people. I'm still excited about it."

Area audiences will have a chance to witness Licad's mastery when she performs with the Stamford Symphony Saturday and March 7, for its "Seductive Romance" concert, featuring works by Edvard Grieg, Frederic Chopin and Johannes Brahms.The concerts are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. March 7 at the Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. Tickets are $29 to $76.

Licad is the featured soloist for the Chopin's "Piano Concerto No. 2." This is the first time she has performed in Stamford.

"I have played that piece since I was 12 years old. I love to play it," she said during a recent telephone interview from her New York City home. "It always is different every time."

Eckart Preu, the conductor and music director for the Stamford Symphony, first worked with Licad about two years ago, when she performed the same piece with the Seattle Symphony, where he also is music director.

"People will love Cecile," he said, noting the great passion and fervor she brings to her performances.

"I almost have to create it at the moment, even if I know it very well," she said of the concerto. "It is as if it has just risen, full of fresh feelings and expressions."

The entire program is full of expressive music of the Romantic period, which covered most of the 19th century.

"It is very emotional, with beautiful melodies. And, it is very lush," Preu said.

Preu added that although the program reflects the work of three leading composers of that era, each man took a different approach. Grieg, a composer and pianist, mostly created smaller pieces, often inspired by folk music from his homeland of Norway.
Chopin, a piano virtuoso, who was born this month in Poland 200 years ago, helped to advance works for piano, not so much in changes to form or a breaking of the rules, Preu said, but in how a piano could be played -- displaying novel techniques that have since become standard.

Meanwhile, Brahms, also a gifted pianist, was more rooted in tradition, Preu said, but worked to advance composition with innovative rhythms.

"Romantic music is very heartfelt, warm and pleasing," he said.

Yet, it is no less challenging to perform.

Working to blend the power of a strong soloist with the force of about 60 accompanying musicians is a challenging task, Preu said. But, it also is part of the fun.

For her part, Licad said she works closely with a conductor.

"You need to be very clear with what you want," she said, but added that she strives to work collaboratively with the conductor and the other musicians.

She leaves room for interpretation, as well. "It can be unpredictable; sometimes ideas just come in a moment."

Christina Hennessy, Stamford Advocate
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