Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cecile Licad, National Treasure

No need to go extensively into who she is. I have to say, if you know squat about Cecile Licad and the exalted position she occupies as one of the world's most acclaimed classical pianists, then you're borderline culturally illiterate. Here's her Wikipedia profile; brush up on it now, so the day she receives her National Artist honors (I've no doubt she's on track to get it within our lifetime), you won't scratch your head and twit, “Whozshe?”. That is, if you do twit about art at all.

There are quite a number of YouTube clips of Ms. Licad in action, mostly from concert performances she has given abroad. I'd like to add to the pile with two new clips where she plays before a hometown audience. These are from the ABS-CBN/CCP concert called Kulturang Handog Sa Bayan, which was held at the CCP Main Theater first on April 26, 1999 and then repeated at the Folk Arts Theater on May 9, 1999.

The show was an ambitious attempt to marry the high-brow and the low-brow, with its spectacular lineup of performers from the classical, theater and pop worlds. As Inquirer columnist Conrado De Quiros put it, “[It was] classical Eraserheads danced by a ballet group, dance groups leaping wildly to Bach, ethnicity turned to rock, Cecile Licad at the piano, high and low, old and new, foreign and local, brought together in one slam-bang smorgasbord.”

Kulturang Handog Sa Bayan generated such buzz that three reviews appeared in the Inquirer alone. Aside from Mr. De Quiros, Pablo Tariman and Gloria Sicam also wrote about it (the latter in the Sunday magazine). The three were unanimous on the evening's high point: Cecile Licad and her stunning piano-playing.

Mr. De Quiros: “[T]he night of course belonged to Cecile Licad. It was almost unfair putting her there, allowing her to demonstrate once again the difference between the merely talented and the absolutely brilliant. Licad played a couple of classical and a couple of folk pieces with such power and effortlessness she made the crowd forget the night was supposed to showcase other performers. As she banged the last chord on the grand piano, the audience rose to its feet, broke into wild applause, and roared for more.”

Mr. Tariman: “Cecile Licad... became an instant audience favorite for her rendition of Rachmaninoff's Prelude and Chopin's Minute Waltz. After the rendition of Buencamino's Larawan and Mayon Fantasy, the audience broke into lusty cheering followed by the most euphoric standing ovation given to any artist at the CCP Main Theater. Backstage at the main theater, both crew and artists fell silent as Licad played and even the camera men were too stunned to say something. Joey Ayala and Cocoy Laurel bowed in front of Licad.”

Ms. Sicam: “I got to watch Cecille Licad. She left me speechless and in awe of her. To say she is good would be an understatement. She was introduced as a "National Treasure." Indeed, she is. I've never seen or heard her play before. I can't believe how much I've been missing. She's just fascinating to watch--she draws you in. Besides the fact that she made the notes come out of that piano like water from a stream, she just did it with such passion and feeling, you could hear the composer's heart in the music that she played... The audience gave her a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of her four numbers.”

See if you don't come away similarly awed by the sheer power, beauty and expressivity of her playing in these two clips (especially in Vid2).

Part 1: Chopin's Minute Waltz

Part 2: Buencamino's Larawan and Mayon Fantasy

PLUS: The Symphonic Eraserheads suite I'd blogged about earlier--here. And the star-studded medley from the musicals of Ryan Cayabyab--here.

[Thank you, Mickey Munoz, as always.]


beektur said...

Licad-hu? Just kidding. I haven't read you rhapsodized like this on a certain artist since Lea Salonga :) I agree that she is a national treasure, but of what nation, now? The Filipino nation between Taiwan and Singapore that looks more to Jim Chapell and that Brickman guy? The migrant Filipino nation which is constantly in flux? Also, sadly, it takes more than talent to be on that list. You need power-backers from the academe, the cultural elite or the Forbes-Dasma-SanLo trinity. Maybe that's just the cynical in me.

gibbs cadiz said...

the nation, BEEKTUR, that can't help but make stupendous music--to sing, dance, make merry, weave stories in the face of constant death, like scheherazade. osssh. :)

Annamanila said...

The reason why we are up there in the capacity for happiness department though almost pit bottom in the human development index. We're a nation of survivors despite the sad economic stats. Chin up, Philippines.

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