Licad’s latest CD overwhelms first listeners

Cecile Licad’s latest recording -- Anthology of American Piano Music, Vol. 2 Music of the Night American Nocturnes (DACOCD 784-783) – is now out and headed for critical acceptance even as an AmericanCD blogger going by the name Fully Half-Baked (FHB) virtually labelled it as a landmark recording.

Cecile Licad’s latest CD on American composers. Another landmark recording in the landscape of American classical music.

A follow up on her previous recording also focused on rarely heard American composers, Volume 2 guides the listeners to the rarely explored landscape of American classical music.

The latest recording under Danacord label features works by Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, George Crumb, Amy Beach, Charles Griffes, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Daniel Gregory Mason, Ernest Bloch and Leo Ornstein, among others.

After initial hearing of selected pieces in Spotify, praises have started coming out in Facebook. One Licad fan named Hadeza Cabaddu singles out the rendition of Gottschalk's “La chûte des feuilles” as truly amazing it left her teary eyed over and over again.

“The rest of the pieces are exquisitely played like the works of George Crumb which I found very profound and ‘nakakakilabot’ (hair-raising). Thank you Cecile Licad for the exalting and mystical experience,” Cabaddu said on FB.

FHB sized up the latest Licad CD: “Her latest recording exudes – once again – not only her maturity and integrity or her mastery of the piano, but also the divide between the ranks of skillful and talented pianists, with her belonging in the latter. Licad makes them all glittering, lush, and sexy. Her pristine sensitivity, tender touch, and virtuosic competence are all over in place drawing out nothing but exalting nuances and picturesque landscapes of sound. She particularly excels in executing those delicate keyboard runs naturally without the cheap and unnecessary sentimentality most of the famous pianists today heavily rely on.”

The blogger further noted that if Licad was a painter in the earlier recording, she became a sorceress in the George Crumb playlist. “These Crumb inclusions are in my reading the best treats of American Nocturnes because listeners (and musicians) are introduced to extended techniques of piano music and performance. Second, it’s a rare circumstance to have a first-rate pianist tackle such works and drift away from the mainstream programming that we are able to hear a truly class A and authoritative musical understanding of these avant-garde music fearless of any criticism. It takes a great musical maturity and integrity for an artist to pull off an album that consists of unknown piano works.”

Cecile Licad with distinguished American composer George Crumb. Some listeners consider the George Crumb pieces as the best in the recording.Photo from Licad's FB posts.

German reviewer Wilfred Schaeper of Radio Bremen was pleasantly surprised to discover that good American sonatas actually existed and noted in Vol. 1 of the same series of American composers: “Who would have guessed that the American piano literature hides forgotten treasures of such high quality, written by gifted composers other than Copland, Gerswhin or Bernstein?”

Licad’s Volume 1 on American composerscontains works by Edward MacDowell, Charles Griffes, Ellie Siegmeister, in addition to the very first sonata that was ever written in North America: Alexander Reinagle’s Philadelphia Sonata No. 1.

“Licad continues to be an absolute world-class pianist. With her stunning technique, her inborn musicality, and her interest in rarely played repertoire, she is the ideal interpreter for this anthology of American piano music. With this series, she breaks new ground, as most of these works are completely unknown in our country. The musical quality of the selected works is fully equivalent to the masterworks by European composers. If, in addition, this music is played in such a passionate and stunning manner as, in this case, by Cecile Licad, then this discovery trip to the New World turns into pure joy. This release will correct quite a few European prejudices against American piano music and is highly recommended to all piano aficionados who have open ears and an open mind. America has a lot more to offer than “musical fast food,” Schaeper concluded.

Moreover, the blogger further notes that the latest CD on American composers departs from previous recording in terms of programming and affords listeners a wider repertoire. “Most are not even the composer’s entire opus, but sketches that conceive an evening atmosphere taken out from their birth context to recreate another– like a Beethoven collection of his piano sonata adagios pulled out from their parent sonatas, pooled together, and reordered to arouse a fully different context.”

Cecile Licad at the American Academy of Arts and Letters where the latest CD was recorded. Photo from Licad's FB post.

Based on its aural outcome, the blogger declared the latest Licad CD as a huge success.

The latest CD was recorded at the auditorium of the American Academy of Arts and Letters recognized in the classical music world as a hidden gem and the best place to record solo and chamber music.

Licad said on FB that spending a day with American composer George Crumb she found fantastic and so inspiring. “I sure am proud to have done this recording project,” she added.

Licad is scheduled to play two Chopin concertos in Manila in October 2017.


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