Cecile Licad: Awesome! Molina and his fiery MSO


N.B. This review was written immediately after the concert but the Holy Week break has delayed its publication.

Cecile Licad — she needs no introduction! — has a remarkably wide Chopin repertoire. Her 1998 concert consisted of three mazurkas, three waltzes, the Scherzo in B Flat Minor, the Ballade in G Minor and twelve etudes.

For the recent third concert marking Chopin’s bi-centennial, she played the 24 Preludes no less and four Scherzos: B Minor, B Flat Minor, C Sharp and E Major. As analyzed by musicologists, the Preludes are mood pieces arranged as a group in key sequence, one in every possible minor and major key. All of them lie between the improvisatory nocturnes and etudes with their masterful resolution of technical problems.

Each prelude is vastly demanding — an out-and-out challenge to a pianist’s dexterity and strength — the E Flat Major is replete with swirling rhythms — and, of course, to her artistry. To our mind, Licad’s artistry stems from impulse and instinct refined by solid, extensive academic training. Or reversing the process, Licad’s academic training is propelled by impulse and instinct which, coming from the depths of her being, make her interpretations so unpredictable and exciting. Yet, they hew closely to the substance of Chopin’s compositions.

Licad’s phenomenal technique was applied to the swiftest, most fluid runs, chordal “outbursts”, arpeggios, trills, etc. After a profusion of notes, she would raise her hands high — at this the audience would hold its breath — then proceed.

Characteristic of Chopin’s works, a mind-boggling flurry would suddenly be followed by the most exquisite, ineffably lyrical passages, the former rendered in fiery intensity; the latter, in utterly gentle, sensitive, subdued fashion.

In the scherzos, Licad’s impulses and instincts — call them a sixth sense — were likewise superbly controlled by the groves of academe.

Ecstatic applause ensued after each number, and Licad’s response to the standing ovation was most generous: four encores, Etude No. 3 in E Major (converted by Tin Pan Alley into “No Other Love”), Buencamino’s lyrical and dramatic Kumintang, a Kreisler-Rachmaninoff arrangement “Love’s Sorrow”, an improvisatory “Planting Rice” from Rodis’ Music Box, and Gottschalk’s Pasquinade.

In Licad’s second concert to mark Chopin’s bicentennial, her choice was Concerto No. 2 in F Minor with the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Molina. Orchestration was never Chopin’s forte. In the concerto’s opening, the piano asserted itself grandly on the instant, and was similarly dominant in the second and third movements. The MSO virtually stayed in the background in the former; often, listeners forgot it was there!

Licad magnificently proved Chopin the incomparable composer of the piano as she delineated poignant beauty while drawing from her vast technical resources. Her single and double runs skimmed smoothly, effortlessly and at lightning speed over the piano as though there were no keys to hurdle. She unceasingly created drama and suspense, while incomparably capturing and expressing the ineffable essence of the music. How awesomely did she give the impression that the concerto (and the rest of the works) had been expressly composed for her!

The wild acclaim and standing ovation led to a typical noblesse oblige, Licad giving no less than an unprecedent seven encores: the “Revolutionary Etude”, two more Chopin pieces including the waltz opening the ballet “Chopiniana”, a Filipino composition, a charming miniature and a repeat of Rodis’ “Planting Rice” from his Musical Box and Gottschalk’s Pasquinade. Yet, the audience thunderously clamored for more!

The concerto was preceded by three orchestral works.

Wagner is admirable for his ability to communicate actual experience. Under Molina’s baton, the MSO delineated with unflagging energy and spirit the burgeoning, bustling life of Nuremberg, including a lively singing contest in the Overture Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg.

Liszt’s robust Les Preludes was given a robust interpretation. In Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnole, Spanish vitality was portrayed by the Russian composer who added even more fire to it, as Molina signified most impressively.

The response reflected a fully ignited audience.











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