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    It’s been 22 years ago, when I finally took the risk of a big CHANGE in my life.  From being an executive secretary in a German company, I didn’t know what will happen to my career when I decided to immigrate to Canada.  No one knows our future except our maker up above, but it [...]

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Cecile Licad:A Pianistʼs Pianist

Cecile Licad:A Pianistʼs Pianist thumbnail

by Ida Beltran-Lucila

She  is showered with glowing accolades: a pianistʼs pianist by  The New Yorker; her artistry is a blend of  daring musical  instinct and superb  training; and  in  possession of enormous virtuosity with great potential for poetic imagination.   In my days as an artist, then subsequently director at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the whole theater will  just buzz with excitement whenever sheʼs in  the building, backstage or  onstage.   Witnessing her  performance, would prove a  truly unforgettable and touching experience.

Named after  the patron saint of music, Cecile Licad started playing the piano at age 3 under her mother  Rosario,  a  professional  pianist  and  teacher.    She  started  reading  notes  at  age  5, performed with  the University of the Eastʼs symphony  at 6, and at age 7, under  the  tutelage of Rosario Picazo, made her debut as soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Philippines. At age 11, Cecile flew to the USA for an audition at  the Curtis Institute of Music  in Philadelphia.   It was in this circumstance that Imelda Marcos became  the sponsor of her flourishing career.    It was then 1972 and the Philippines was under martial law, when her  family requested permission to  leave  for  the  United  States.    First  Lady Imelda Marcos  granted  their  request  and  named Cecile  First Piano  Scholar  of  the  Philippines Young Artists’  Foundation,  which  sponsored  her eight years of study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.    In  later  years,  Imelda would gift her with a Steinway grand piano.

At  the  Curtis  Institute,  Cecile  was  mentored  by   the  three  of  the  greatest  performers  and pedagogues: Rudolf Serkin, Seymour  Lipkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. In 1981, she won the prestigious Leventritt award (one of the youngest to do so), and marked her debut with the New York  Philharmonic,  the  following  year.    The  award,  which  came  with  a  guaranteed  3-year international  concert  bookings  and  recordings,  was  her  main  ticket  to  global  fame.    She remarks, “I was very grateful  for  it, but  it also made my life difficult, because of the pressure… suddenly I was doing 70 concerts a year.”

Cecile  has  since  collaborated  with:  Buffalo  Philharmonic;  Tupelo  Symphony;  Germanyʼs Wurtemburg  Philharmonic,  and  Freiburg  Orchestra;  Seattle  Symphony;  Chicago  Symphony; Boston  Symphony;  Philadelphia  Orchestra;  New  York  Philharmonic;  National  Symphony; Cleveland Orchestra; Los Angeles Philharmonic; the London Symphony; London Philharmonic; Bayerisches  Rundfunk  Orchestra;  Orchestre  de  la  Suisse  Romande;  the  Moscow  State Academy Symphony;  the  Hong  Kong  Philharmonic;  New Japan  Philharmonic;  Tokyoʼs NHK Symphony; among others.

Her  list of concert venues and engagements reads like a  listing of the most prestigious musical events  in  the  globe:  Lincoln Center; Orchestra  Hall  in  Chicago;  the  Kennedy Center; Apollo Theater  in New York; as soloist in the Steinway Piano Sesquicentennial Celebration at Carnegie Hall;  the  International Music Festival of Seattle; Mostly Mozart Festival  (in both New York  and Arts and CultureTokyo);  the  Santa  Fe  Chamber  Music  Festival;  La  Jolla  Chamber  Music    ;  Eastern  Music Festival;  the Great Mountains Music  Festival  in Korea;  to name some.   Her  recordings, on the other  hand,  span  the  labels:  Music  Masters;  Naxos;  Sony  Classical;  and  Angel/EMI.    The release of her Sony Classical Chopinʼs Piano Concerto No. 2 and Saint-Saensʼ  Piano Concerto No.  2,  with  Andre  Previn  conducting  the  London  Philharmonic  Orchestra  was  awarded  the Grand Prix du Disque Frederic Chopin.

Known  for  her  extraordinary  range  of  touch, hypersensitivity to  dynamics and  obsession with perfection, Cecileʼs vast repertoire as an orchestral  soloist spans the classical works of Mozart, Beethoven,  the  romantic  pieces  of  Brahms,  Chopin,  Tchaikovsky,  Schumann,  Rachmaninoff, and  the  20th  century compositions of masters Debussy,  Ravel,  Shostakovich, Prokofiev,  and Bartok.

Cecile  and  her  performances  have  been  described  as:  Licadʼs performance  was  one  of  the highlights of the season.   Daring,  imaginative, and  impeccably played,  this was quite  simply a spectacular performance by a  top notch artist.  (Arlene Bachanov, Daily  Telegram); Licad plays with  a  character  and  commitment  entirely  her  own;  a  far  cry  from  todayʼs more  fashionable austerity and circumspection.  (The Gramophone)

Undoubtedly, one of the most, if not the most, accomplished musician of our time, she has these to say about her art:
• A piece  of music does not  say anything.    Itʼs  just a  bunch of notes.   But  if you  look at  the score,  thereʼs  something  between  those  notes  that  you  have  to  conquer.   Otherwise,  the music doesnʼt do anything, and it canʼt relate to anybody.
• You  canʼt always aim  for perfection  in  a  live  performance.   Sometimes,  things donʼt happen according  to  the plan.   You have  to  go deep  into yourself  -  into  the unknown  – and be  in  a place where  youʼve  never been.    If you are well-prepared, you can discover something  that enriches you forever.
• A great pianist is someone who has discipline, dedication, and has a unique relationship with the piano which has been developed since his/her training.   What sets apart a great artist  in this field, however are  two  things.   The first  is  just an ability to  approach  the same piece  of music over and  over again  as  if  learning  it  for the  first  time  every  time.   The second  is the creativity to have a vision before you even sit down at the piano, and then having the chops to execute that vision.
• I always consider myself a student and I never would see myself as a great master.
Memorable words from an equally memorable artist.

* (some quotes taken from Movimiento). For feedback, email or go to


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