By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – In between our conversation, renowned international Philippine pianist Cecile Licad played Liszt: Paganini Étude No. 6 in A Minor Fireflies. This piece would be part of her program in the upcoming concert at the Weill Recital Hall of the Carnegie Hall on January 18, 2018 at 8 PM.
The long nimble fingers of the petite virtuoso produced music that’s simply breathtaking. There were fireflies in my head, jumping and swirling, as her rendition so evoked. Cecile’s West End apartment has two grand pianos, several photographs and paintings of family and herself, and a wall unit of CDs. Nothing frivolous or lavish – truly an artist’s haven.
Cecile has built her passion on classical music for the past 30 years. At 19, she won her first Leventritt Gold Medal and has since then owned the stage in Europe and America in her subsequent concerts.
Reputed to be the “pianist’s pianist” Cecile’s magnificence in the piano is maintained and nourished by relentless practice as a way of life. She practices all day long – until her fingers, mind, and body are in great harmony for performance. While it is a mind thing, Cecile makes sure she gets a good sleep and indulges in her favorite Filipino food as part of her preparations. “I go to Woodside to buy my sinigang and other Filipino favorites,” she laughed.
Excerpts of our interview:
OSM!: What preparations do you do for a magnificent performance as a pianist?
Cecile: The music has to take me somewhere else. I have to work to the point that I am no longer aware of myself. Like I’m flying off. Lose myself into the music. I have to entertain myself, so that I can entertain the audience. And I should have lots of fun. So it is about so many layers of things.
I work everyday and find out how my fingers can play the piece. And so it is not just my fingers, but my whole body to (interpret) the music. I practice everyday. Practice is important as having breakfast, or it’s like when people have to go to work everyday. Practice is my way of life.
OSM!: Do you have a favorite piece?
Cecile: No, because the piano repertoire is so huge. And it is impossible to have a favorite piece. Whatever I am playing is the most important thing that I am doing. That I am the only one who can do it.
OSM!: What is the greatest challenge as a pianist?
Cecile: The challenge is always to make the piece sound the way it should sound.
OSM!: Any tips for success for aspiring international pianists?
Cecile: It takes a lot of patience, I guess, and ‘stubborness’? And persistence in the way you develop. Don’t make people tell you what to do. You have to find your own personal (expression).