Licad in her element in Boston shows | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

BOSTON music lovers give Cecile Licad two standing ovations in her
BOSTON music lovers give Cecile Licad two standing ovations in her

Pianist Cecile Licad closed her Calderwood Hall’s inaugural recital season at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Sunday late last month.

She played Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22, on the first half, and in the last number of the concluding half; and Liszt’s Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata in the last part of the recital. She got standing ovations.

Describing her concluding “Dante” sonata by Liszt,  Boston critic Michael Rocha wrote: “Licad was in her element as she reeled off sheets of eardrum-rattling octave runs, hurtling toward  a piano-pulverizing conclusion that left the wooden floor palpably vibrating beneath our feet.”

Licad said she was happy she was able to connect with an audience in a  venue that was unlike other conventional recital set-up.

The Boston critic described the hall as a stage-free “theater in the square” which proved very intimate, a visually arresting space in which to hear a solo recital.

“The performer seems particularly exposed, surrounded as she is on all sides, with three tiers of balconies looming overhead. This exposure is auditory as well, with sharply delineated acoustic. The strikingly austere environment, coupled with Licad’s analytical approach, resulted in an all-Romantic program largely devoid of the traditional trappings of Romanticism.”

Critic corrected

While the audience went wild, critic Rocha noted that   Licad’s interpretation of Chopin’s Three Mazurkas  “seemed to lack the emotional nuance and refinement generally associated with this composer.”

The critic admitted his opinion was in the minority, as the capacity crowd  was on its feet at the conclusion of the first half.

A Boston music-lover reminded  the critic that music  appreciation could, indeed, be a matter of personal taste and opinion, and added that  that he  thoroughly enjoyed the whole recital with no reservations.

The music-lover  corrected the Boston critic that Licad’s encore was  “Souvenirs d’Andalousie” by Louis Moreau Gottschalk and not Liszt’s “La Campanella” as written in the music review.

The critic  concluded: “Some performances impress more than move; such was the case for this reviewer and this particular recital. Cecile Licad is a phenomenal pianist whose interpretations of the Romantic repertoire are instructively idiosyncratic.”

Another  outraged music-lover wrote the critic: “The formidable critic and composer Virgil Thomson had been prejudiced by Horowitz pianism and creativity that he called the latter the ‘master of all distortions.’

“Likewise, with the late New York critic Harold Schoenberg, who hated everything about Leonard Bernstein’s music-making, but in the former’s retiring years acknowledged that  in the end Bernstein would be treated by history as a genius and a monument would be erected. And the irony for him [Rocha] as a critic was, he simply tried to pontificate his beliefs… His  review is another type of writing, as if to say the critic would render those repertoire better than Licad. He was listening unto himself  [without] understanding what Licad was  communicating.

“For him, it was idiocyncratic, but for the majority,  it was a living interpretation of the moment of time. Interpretation should never be typical but, rather, alive and individual. If the audience love it, the critic’s opinion is dull and pointless.”

The first time Licad played Chopin ( 12 Etudes, Op. 25) in the new hall, another Boston critic wrote: “Licad’s execution was “transcendental, as Liszt would have called it—also evocative of Godowsky—though without Godowsky’s  astonishing and at times vulgar additions and embellishments.”

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