Cecile Licad remembers piano icon Pollini after Met concert | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Cecile Licad remembers piano icon Pollini after Met concert
Cecile Licad at the Met with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra —KIKO CABUENA
Cecile Licad remembers piano iconPollini after Met concert
Cecile Licad at the Met with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra —KIKO CABUENA

On the day Cecile Licad arrived in New York after her ecstatically received March 19 concert at the Metropolitan Theater (Met) in Manila, the foremost Filipino pianist paid tribute to the Italian piano icon Maurizio Pollini, who died March 23 in his Milan home.

“I admired Maurizio Pollini a lot,” said Licad who received a double standing ovation at the Met with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) under Polish maestro Grzegorz Nowak.

Both Pollini and Licad recorded for legendary conductor Claudio Abbado, along with the piano icon from Argentina, Martha Argerich.

Both Pollini and Argerich are past winners of the Chopin Competition in Poland.

Licad was once invited to sit in the jury of the Chopin Competition in the 1990s, but the jury deliberations fell on the day of her engagement with the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini
Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini (1942-2024)

Radical ways

Recalled Licad: “Apparently Pollini had to have six strong espressos before he played, and he splashed his face with ice water. That was his ritual. He was Claudio Abbado’s best friend and favorite musical partner. I was very lucky because at that time, Maestro Abbado only performed with a small handful of soloists. That I was one of them was a great honor I will never forget!”

Pollini’s friendship with Abbado started as both of them were like-minded left-wing idealists. They explored radical ways of bringing classical music to factory workers. Another project of Abbado and Pollini was a series of concerts at La Scala for employees and students.

Like Pollini, Licad enjoyed performing not just for Metro Manila’s elite audiences but also for teachers, farmers and fisherfolk of the Science City of Muñoz (Nueva Ecija).

Present in the Met concert was Muñoz Vice Mayor Nestor Alvarez, who sponsored Licad’s five outreach concerts in Nueva Ecija.

“It was pure heaven watching (Cecile) Licad for the first time in my life,” said Miguelito Herrera who traveled more than 168 kilometers from Cabanatuan City to watch Licad at the Met.

Licad also acknowledged the help of the late PPO trustee Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco through her son, Anton Tantoco Huang. “My friendship with the Tantoco family started way back. My mother (Rosario Buencamino Licad) was close to her mother (Rustan’s founder) Glecy Tantoco.”

Cecile Licad remembers piano iconPollini after Met concert
Licad and Anton Huang —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Glecy Rustia Tantoco was from Baliuag, Bulacan, while the family of the pianist’s mother comes from San Miguel, Bulacan.

“Nearly all my concerts in Manila were spearheaded by Nedy Tantoco, who worked very fast and solved problems fast. I see the same character and super efficiency in her son, Anton. In my first rehearsal with the PPO, I was concerned with the not-so-ideal acoustics of the Met. It was mainly due to those curtains which serve as backdrop of the stage and they absorb all the sound. The result is the sound doesn’t bounce back to the audience. Imagine, Anton produced an acoustics shell made of plywood in 24 hours just to produce better acoustics on opening night!”

Impeccable performance

Meanwhile, the audience approval for Licad’s Women’s Month Concert at the Met was unanimous.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who spearheaded the Women’s Month concert, said the Met event “wasn’t just a concert but also a tribute to the power of women and the magic of music.”

Cecile Licad remembers piano iconPollini after Met concert
Licad with Sen. Loren Legarda

Deanna Ongpin Recto described Licad’s performance as “impeccable,” while Mav Rufino said “it was spellbinding!”

National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario was so moved he posted on Facebook: “Tutula ako para kay Cecile Licad (I will pay tribute to the pianist with a poem)!”

From author-poet Susan Lara: “It was an unforgettable evening with ‘pianist’s pianist,’ Cecile Licad. And what a night! From soft and gentle passages to powerful crescendos, Cecile was so captivating, mesmerizing, we refused to let her go. She responded with three encores! The bonus was seeing familiar faces that made me feel I was in a literary event: National Artists for Literature Gemino H. Abad and Virgilio Almario, Jose Dalisay and my newly discovered cousin June P. Dalisay, Babeth Lolarga, Princess Nemenzo, Julie Lluch, Bibeth Orteza, and many others.”

Licad herself was stunned by the new PPO music director Nowak and the orchestra.

“We were so super synchronized at the concert. It was a wonderful collaboration with the new music director of the PPO. I loved maestro Nowak’s rehearsal process. It made the performance much more fun and enjoyable. The PPO that night was in top form,” she said.

In a spirit of fun, she added, “In that concert, nobody was sleeping.”

Nowak, for his part, said working with Licad was an exhilarating musical experience. “She’s a brilliant pianist with perfect technique and command of the instrument, as well as a passionate musician whose interpretations move the orchestra and the audience. Our orchestra eagerly and enthusiastically joined her deeply profound interpretation of this masterwork. We look forward to performing with her and to participate in her musical creations as often as possible.”

Then he pointed out the need for a new piano for the orchestra.

“Licad’s art is one more reason we need to have a superb quality Steinway piano. We will apply for a budget to get one. When we get the right piano, we could present Licad with the full spectrum of her extremely rich palette of tone and color.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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