Cecile Licad Gets Gottschalk
One day, a fan called pianist Cecile Licad to say he had found a great composer for her: Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The caller owned several recordings of Gottschalk’s piano music, and thought they just didn’t have enough swing. “I think you’d be able to do justice to this music,” the fan pleaded. Licad replied “Gott-who?” As a native of 19th century New Orleans, Gottschalk composed music colored by the musical styles he grew up with, a mesh of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, Spanish dances and French-European classicism. “I’d never even heard of Gottschalk,” Licad admits during a phone interview from New York, “but I started liking his music while I worked on it. It has a lot of Spanish rhythms, and I’m from the Philippines. I’m used to this kind of lilting rhythm.” Since that call, Licad has recorded an album of Gottschalk’s music for the Naxos label. As her fan had hoped, she plays the composer’s Souvenirs d’Andalousie, Op.22 with precisely placed moments of hesitation that make the rhythm sway like the hips of a flamenco dancer. She also performed his work with the Wynton Marsalis Septet to accompany the silent feature film Louis, a homage to Louis Armstrong which premiered in 2010 at Chicago’s Symphony Center. For her upcoming concert at Festival Miami, Licad will perform a Gottschalk sampler, which will include Souvenirs d’Andalousie, as well as Manchega, Op.38 and his Grand Scherzo, Op.57. A prodigious and virtuosic pianist himself, Gottschalk would have been ecstatic to hear his music from the hands of Cecile Licad. Although wildly popular in his day, Gottschalk’s music is seldom heard in the concert hall today. The same could be said for the rest of Licad’s upcoming program, which is made up mostly of fellow Americans William Mason, Leo Ornstein, and Edward MacDowell. One of the only two pieces on the program not written by Americans is Busoni’s American Indian Diary. Okay, makes sense. But what is 18th Century French composer Cecile Chaminade’s Sonata in C minor, Op, 21 doing here? Licad explains, “Well, because we have the same name!” Whatever her reasoning, Licad’s playing uncovers hidden treasures in unusual repertoire. Cecile Licad will perform on Sunday, October 20 at 4:00 p.m. in Gusman Concert Hall at University of Miami, as part of Festival Miami. For tickets visit festivalmiami.com or call (305) 284-4940.