Licad, Van Cliburn piano get highest approval in mall concert

The Inbox

By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

Mall photos by Eloisa Vistan

When Cecile Licad agreed to perform in a Makati shopping mall last Friday in her bid to reach out to new audiences, the first concern was how to get the best piano available.

The first offered to her was a reconditioned white Steinway grand but the touch bothered her and she wondered where she could borrow another one.

She couldn’t go straight to the person who has it and whispered to an orchestra member if she could borrow the best available instrument not found in the mall.

Licad’s choice was a full Steinway grand with a robust tone and a perfect touch.

After her performance of Tchaikovsky No. 1 in B Flat Minor with the ABS- CBN Philharmonic under Gerard Salonga Friday night, she got thunderous applause, rising cheers and a standing ovation.

After her first encore, Buencamino’s Mayon Fantasy, Licad got a second standing ovation and many wondered where that brilliant and powerful sound came from.

The Steinway grand happened to be the wedding gift of pianist Van Cliburn to former presidential daughter, Irene M. Araneta.

“It is a good piano,” said Licad when the instrument was trucked from Forbes Park to the Glorietta Mall. “I didn’t have to force a good sound in that piano. It is just there and of course I made the most of it. A pianist cannot do without a good instrument.”

Licad and the Steinway grand got the highest approval from an audience who got a good respite from political jingles Friday night.

Dr. Charito Esquela Buban -- who happens to have a class reunion in the mall when Licad performed -- said it felt like the Mayon exploded with Licad’s rendition of Buencamino’s Mayon Fantasy. “We had a great time listening to her.”

“It was a fantastic treat,” said Alma Cruz Miclat who dashed to the mall activity center when she heard Licad was the soloist of the ABS- CBN Philharmonic. “I love Tchaikovsky and Licad’s interpretation was a gem indeed. I was shouting Bravo from where I was and my daughter,Banaue Miclat-Janssen was quietly shedding tears of sheer joy.”

By coincidence, Licad has a long association with Van Cliburn who passed away last March 6.

When Cliburn arrived in Manila in the early 70s for fund-raising concert for the benefit of young talented Filipino musicians, the one who gave him the welcome bouquet at the airport was no other than Cecile Licad, then Mrs. Marcos favorite piano prodigy.

That Cliburn concert raised funds for the Young Artists Foundation which funded other aspiring musicians among them Rowena Arrieta, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, the Bolipata brothers and tenor Noel Velasco, among others.

It may be noted that among those impressed by Licad’s talent was Cliburn’s own mother.

When Licad first performed in Cliburn’s home state, Texas, his mother -- Mrs. Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn – was so impressed she slipped a $100 in the prodigy’s concert gown after her performance with the Forth Worth Symphony.

If Licad won that mall crowd with the Tchaikovsky opus, Van Cliburn also got instant fame by winning the First Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 with the same classical warhorse.

It is now common knowledge that for that feat, Cliburn was given a ticker-tape parade in New York normally reserved for beauty queens and rock stars.

The 1958 Time Magazine cover story on Cliburn read: “The Texan who conquered Russia.”

For three years after Van Cliburn played at the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow where he won the First Tchaikovsky Competition, it was Licad’s turn to play in the same venue in 2011 as soloist in the Brahms concerto with the Russian State Orchestra. It was also the first time she set foot in the famous Tchaikovsky Hall where the likes of Otto Klemperer, Artur Rubenstein, Yasha Heifetz, Marian Anderson, Artur Honegger, Bela Bartok, David Oystrakh and Emil Gilels have performed earlier.

Meanwhile, Licad who left for New York Sunday morning said she had a very good vibes about that mall audience in Glorietta. “I felt the good audience response from the very beginning,” she said.

Licad returns at CCP with the ABS CBN Philharmonic on June 29, 2013 playing Liszt No 1 and Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra. Call (02) 5763132 or 09065104270.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)