By By Pablo A. Tariman
An all-chopin program for Cecile Licad
posted 3-Sep-2018  ·  
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Cecile Licad with Pablo Tariman and neurologist Joven Cuanang at CCP reception.

After my last island concert last August 6, I will also do my last Cecile Licad outreach concert tour at yearend covering Iloilo City, Roxas City, Davao and hopefully Legazpi City.

For lack of sponsors, Catanduanes is not part of her countryside tour.

Her repertoire? An all-Chopin program.

Polish composer Frederic Chopin is now 208 years old and it is amazing how the half-a-century old Licad connected with the composer's music as though she had known him all her life.

Licad is the first Filipino and the last Asian whose recording of the F Minor Chopin concerto with André Previn and the London Philharmonic won the Grand Prix du Disque from Warsaw's Chopin Society.

She is the first recipient of this CD citation from Poland's Chopin specialists.

A second look at Licad's phenomenal career shows that she had an excellent command and feel for Chopin as early as when she was 11 years old.

Licad's first competition piece was the Chopin's F Minor concerto which won for her the Manila Young Artists auditions when she was barely in her teens. She nearly didn't make it in that competition because one member of the jury thought that the Chopin concerto was not suited for an 11-year old pianist.

The same Chopin concerto was Licad's debut with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta in 1981.

In her first recital in Poland, Licad used a Paderewski (noted Polish pianist and statesman) piano after which the critics hailed her as one of the "best Chopin interpreters in 15 years."

She was also invited to sit in the jury of the Chopin competition but her manager unknowingly accepted a Hong Kong engagement which coincided with the competition proper.

It is understandable that Licad connected with her late best friend, filmmaker Marilou Diaz Abaya in one movement of the second Chopin sonata which is about sorrow giving way to torment.

Among those who raved over Licad's B Flat Sonata was the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin who passed away two months after that 1994 recital.

A Polish poet-critic complained that it was hard to get Licad's all-Chopin recording in France where he found one through the internet.

He wrote to Licad,"Your Chopin is absolutely marvelous; it's like listening to Him resuscitated! You should record as much as possible of his works! Please, you must do it for humanity! It's so terribly rare to hear such an interpretation, absolutely adequate to the message of the music."

When Licad first played Chopin's Twelve Etudes Op. 25 in Washington D.C. some years back, the Washington Post critic noted that throughout the evening, Licad's "fierce intelligence illuminated the emotional core of Chopin."

But nothing beats the erudite words of Philadelphia Inquirer critic Daniel Webster in his review of one Licad recital: "We hear a different Chopin from what our elders heard. The music is more direct, edgy, and muscular. The poetry is there, but the urgency of it is even more clear-eyed, more intense. The subtle differences have emerged as all the elements of life have changed around the music. Cecile Licad made that point in her recital Friday at the Philosophical Society. The pianist exemplifies the style. Her focus is the instrument. She skirted excessive freedoms in the Scherzo No. 1, and rattled some thunder in its landscape. Her playing carries the weight of authority and the absence of doubt."

For Licad, there is really no secret to her Chopin touch. "I learn the score very well, not just my part but everybody's. Being with a chamber orchestra, you don't just think about your music. But when I perform, I stop thinking and analyzing and play what I feel instinctively. I never plan anything--the phrasing is here, a harmonic chord is there. I think of it at the moment."

(Cecile Licad   begins her 2018 outreach tour with a solo recital in two heritage sites in Iloilo City: the Nelly Garden and Molo Church in Iloilo City November 29-30, 2018.)

The Licad provincial tour begins in Iloilo City in this beautiful heritage site called Nelly Garden.
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