The powerful and persuasive playing of Cecile Licad would have gone a lot further if she had found some true pianissimos her interpretations of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor last Friday (November 17) at Lincoln Recital Hall. Because Licad kept the volume between mezzo forte and double forte, the sonic effect was a bit overwhelming for the relatively small space. Fortunately, she recalibrated the dynamics after intermission and returned to the stage to deliver a totally brilliant performance of Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit.”
Licad’s appearance was part of the PSU Steinway Piano Series, which has brought some of the world’s best pianists to Portland for a weekend of recitals and master classes. Licad, a native of the Philippines, demonstrated incisive and committed artistry for all three pieces on her program. Her interpretation of the Liszt gave special prominence to the bass line, which vied wonderfully against the fantastic flights of fancy that the composer gave to the treble line.
But in the Ravel, Licad was able to lift all of the unusual sonic effects into another realm. The sudden shifts of sound in “Ondine” were absolutely enchanting. The unrelenting bell tone in “Le Gibet’ acquired a haunting and mysterious luster. The tempestuous and scattershot nature of “Scarbo” gave a dizzying presence that swept up the audience. Licad graciously embraced the cheers and applause with two encores. The first was a cheerful rendition of Gottschalk’s “Souvenirs d’Andalouse,” and the second a waltz by Chopin.