|Pianist Cecile Licad|
Internationally renowned Philippine pianist Cecile Licad’s recent concerts here have seen her tackle two piano concertos in a single night. Audiences were delighted to see her conquer such a herculean feat but deep within I wished that the concertos she performed were not the ones that have been overplayed.
That’s why when she did her encores, two delightful piano miniatures with a distinctly Spanish flavor that I haven’t heard before, I was fascinated. I was later told by Licad herself that these were Manchega, Op. 38 and Souvenirs d’Andalousie, Op. 22 and it was a surprise for me to learn that they were composed by an American named Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
As expected, I wanted to learn more about this composer and his works. Thankfully, an album of Gottschalk’s piano works recorded by no other than Cecile Licad herself was offered as a free download at the Naxos Records newsletter. It was as if someone responded to my unspoken longing. Not only was I able to listen again and savor the two pieces that I’ve heard her play already, but I now I have fourteen more tracks to kick start my Gottschalk music immersion.
It was indeed music to my ears what I heard: folk idioms, exoticism, rhythm and syncopation that somehow foreshadowed ragtime and jazz that were still decades from emerging, and surprisingly, patriotic American music. Notable tracks for me aside from the two pieces that I’ve already mentioned earlier are Le banjo, Op. 15, Bamboula, Op. 2, The Dying Poet which was a very popular piece of music during the American Civil War and Union, Op. 48 that weaved together Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia and the still undeclared national anthem Star Spangled Banner. It doesn’t mean that I think that the rest is filler as they still have their charm and worthy pieces not just to listen to but also to play.
If only I could play it as well as Licad does in the recording. The fiery aggressiveness and brilliance she exhibits here is balanced by a delicacy and lightness. I may have had my reservations on how she played her piano concertos during her most recent performances in here, but with her Gottschalk, she is clearly in her element.
The album liner notes gave a brief account of Gottschalk’s life and I found it fascinating that he lived right smack during the American Civil War and this has greatly influenced some of his music. This also revealed how little I know about this moment in history and also about American music before the 20th century. And through Gottschalk, I hope that I would be able to remedy this soon.
Lastly, I have nothing against Licad performing another pair of piano concertos in here. But I do hope that she considers doing a solo piano recital for the meantime and may it be heavy with Gottschalk music. For the meantime, I’ll just satisfy myself by giving her album another spin.
Gottschalk: Piano Music
1. Le banjo, Op. 15
2. Bamboula, Op. 2
3. Le bananier, Op. 5
4. La savane, Op. 3
5. Tremolo, Op. 58
6. El sitio de Zaragoza, "Symphony No. 10"
7. Manchega, Op. 38
8. Souvenirs d’Andalousie, Op. 22
9. Souvenir de Porto Rico, Op. 31
10. L'etincelle, La scintilla, Op. 20
11. La gallina (The Hen), Op. 53
12. Suis – moi! (Follow Me! Vamos a la azotea), Op. 45
13. Pasquinade, Caprice, Op. 59
14. Tournament Galop
15. The Dying Poet
16. Union, Op. 48