Instrumentalist - Piano
Cecile Licad debut in Moscow: 'Awesome'
Celebrated Filipino pianist Cecile Licad made a very strong impression on Russian audiences when she made her historic Moscow debut with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra on April 15 under the baton of People's Artist of Russia Mark Gorenstein.

"Maestro Gorenstein has everything I look for in a conductor," said Licad. "My approach to music simply jibed with his and on top of that, he has a great personality. Our music-making was almost up there on a psychic level. I had to control myself because I was close to tears on the second movement of the Brahms concerto with everyone obsessed with the music as I did. It was an engagement of a lifetime," Licad said.

"This engagement is simply indescribable," Licad told the Inquirer upon her arrival in New York from Moscow. "The conductor was great, the Tchaikovsky Hall was full with not a single seat vacant, the piano was superb and the Russian audience is one of the most music-obsessed I have encountered in my whole life," she added.

Licad got the thrill of her performing life when she got the traditional rhythmic applause from the Russian audience some of whom went on stage to offer her flowers.

"I was simply overwhelmed by the audience reaction," the renowned Filipino pianist said.

First time

A lady from the artistic staff of the orchestra commented that Licad's interpretation demolished the impression that only male pianists can do justice to Brahms.

Zara Melikyan, a Russian music lover, told Licad after the concert: "I enjoyed the concert very much. It was awesome! You played excellently and I heard people from the audience say that as well."

Licad said it was also the first time she set foot in the famous Tchaikovsky Hall where the likes of Otto Klemperer, Artur Rubenstein, Yasha Heifetz, Marian Anderson, Artur Honegger, Bela Bartok, David Oystrakh and Emil Gilels have performed earlier.

"The Tchaikovsky Hall was simply incomparable when it comes to the sound," Licad said. "This hall had everything an artist can ask for. The organizers care about you and the musicians not just knew every note of the music but they have a unique way of projecting the sound the best that you can think of. Their music-making is not just about power. They care a lot about the quality of sound. For this reason, this Moscow concert is simply heaven-sent."

Second team-up

The April 15 engagement was actually her second team-up with Gorenstein, considered one of the most famous and distinguished conductors in contemporary Russia. Gorenstein's name is closely associated with traditions of the Russian conductor's school-brilliant performance, depth and innovativeness of interpretation, filigree technique and strong personality.

Licad had three rehearsals with the orchestra and the first encounter with the orchestra stunned her when the conductor asked her, "Do you still remember me?"

It turned out conductor Gorenstein also conducted her when she made her Israel debut in Tel Aviv some 20 years ago as soloist in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2.

"There was some slight mix-up in that Israel engagement," Licad recalled. "The conductor was informed I was playing Chopin No. 1 but I was ready for Chopin No. 2. Even with that last-minute discovery, that Israel concert turned out very well with the conductor learning the piece only in the first few rehearsals."

Maestro's credentials

Before Licad, Gorenstein had worked with such distinguished soloists as violinist Viktor Tretyakov, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianists Nikolai Petrov, Denis Matsuev, Lazar Berman and singers Elena Obraztsova, Roberto Alagnia, Angela Gheorghiu and Kathleen Battle, among others.

Of Gorenstein's credentials, Steve Smith of the New York Times had written: "The best measure of Mr. Gorenstein's work came in an urgent, imaginatively shaded account of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Beginning at a whisper, the cellos rose to a magnificently throaty sound. Woodwinds were ribald, and brasses took on a warm glow. It would be hard to imagine a more phantasmagorical rendition of the closing pages in the Giuoco Delle Coppie, or a more desolate introduction to the Elegia."

Before her Russian debut, Vice President Jejomar Binay had congratulated Licad, saying she remains a big inspiration for Filipino musicians all over the world.

Founded in 1936, the Russian State Symphony Orchestra had been led by some of the finest conductors and composers in music history, notably Igor Stravinsky, Konstantin Ivanov, Evgeniy Svetlanov, Otto Klemperer, Erich Kleiber, Yehudi Menuhin, Charles Munch, Mstislav Rostropovich, Kurt Masur and Valery Gergiev, among others

Pablo Tariman, Philippine Daily Inquirer
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