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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, October 2014

Filipina classical pianist Cecile Licad plays [these works] with vigor, vivacity, and sensitivity…Licad’s sometimes leisurely, sometimes highly animated manner seems well suited to Gottschalk’s more-lyrical and more-outgoing compositions. © 2014 Classical Candor Read complete review

, January 2009

An unconventional set of performances that highlights the rhythmic swing and vitality of Gottschalk’s piano music. Licad’s readings, pulsating with adventure, give us an inside glimpse of the mindset of a young and growing nation ready to take on new challenges. Be ready to adjust any preconceptions you might have about this music; Licad deserves nothing less.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

If you want a single representative disc of Gottschalk’s music, this is it. Cecile Licad is right inside this repertoire. She obviously enjoys every bar and conveys her enthusiasm to us, playing with character, polish and rhythmic gusto. Le Banjo, which opens the programme, has great zest, Bamboula (the ‘Danse de nègres’) thumps vigorously, and the Tournament Galop chases along with infectious bravura. Yet Le Bananier has an almost sinuous charm and La Savane is played with winning delicacy. Even The Dying Poet is made to sound delicate rather than too overtly sentimental, partly because here, as elsewhere, Licad’s rubato is naturally spontaneous. The idiomatic feeling of La jota aragonesa and of the two Souvenirs is striking, for she has a real feeling for Spanish and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. The programme closes with the spectacular Union, presented with genuine bravado. Very well recorded, this disc is irresistible.

C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz, August 2008

Like his contemporary Frederic Chopin, any discussion of Louis Moreau Gottschalk must begin with this piano music. Gottschalk played a Chickering grand piano with more than the standard 88 keys. Tonally, this permitted Gottschalk to expand the high register language of Schubert and Liszt. This can readily be heard in the “Camptown Races” section of “Le Banjo” and the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle” sections of “The Union, a paraphrase.”

Pianist Cecile Licad takes a more aggressive approach to Gottschalk’s warhorses “Le Banjo” and “The Union,” playing these at a breakneck tempo not heard on previous recordings…Licad’s assertive approach, however, is more measured on slower pieces like “La savane, Ballade creole” and the slightly faster “Souvenir de Porto Rico,” meeting with greater artistic success. The famous salon piece, “The Dying Poet,” is lilting and graceful, Licad entering fully into the piece’s sentimentality. This juxtaposes perfectly with the following “The Union,” which is Gottschalk banging at his best.

Licad’s playing is determined, an admirable quality…Piano Music is a worthy introduction to this important American composer.

Fanfare, March 2004

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David N. Lewis, August 2003

Naxos’ American Classics disc, Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Piano Music, featuring internationally-known pianist Cecile Licad, is a noteworthy marriage of player and repertoire. Licad has established herself in core European literature such as Chopin and Ravel, and it has been a long time since those of us who come in contact with music mainly through recordings have heard her; audiences in Licad’s native Manila and at the Santa Fe Music Festival have been somewhat luckier. Cecile Licad credits producer Emile Kraemer for encouraging her to undertake the case of Gottschalk, whose dazzling and infectious music bears all the hallmarks of top-tier nineteenth Romantic style, yet is still strangely lacking in credibility among scholars and interpreters well-versed in the work of Gottschalk’s European contemporaries.

What Cecile Licad brings to the table is her understanding of Chopin, who was Gottschalk’s main influence, and words cannot convey how well this works—you simply have to hear it. Gottschalk’s music is technically treacherous, and in many recorded performances that have gone before pianists have taken a cautious approach, which renders the score clear but seems a little underpowered in terms of expression and emotion. Licad’s interpretations here emphasize the expressiveness, nuance and excitement of this music in a manner this reviewer has never heard before…everyone at the office here (All Music Guide) is unilaterally amazed by [the disc’s] virtues…you owe it to yourself to pick this one up, especially at Naxos’ bargain price.

Jed Distler, August 2003

Cecile Licad may have been groomed under Rudolf Serkin’s exacting tutelage, but her visceral, exuberant Gottschalk playing evokes Vladimir Horowitz’s diabolical art. It’s not just speed and accuracy that Licad brings to the impossible repeated notes in Le banjo or Tremolo, but also impulsive dynamic surges and fustian drama. Her nimble, skywritten runs in La jota aragonesa simply take your breath away, as do her exquisitely shaped soft chords. For all of Licad’s affetuoso teasing in The Dying Poet, somehow the work’s surface treacle never turns maudlin.

She summons up every inch of blood and thunder in virtuosic nationalist works such as the Souvenirs d’Andalousie, Souvenir de Porto, and the Union. Her rhythm is infectious as well as galvanizing: listen to La Gallina’s tango-influenced underpinnings and you’ll be dancing within seconds…we’ve got the best of Gottschalk, played to the hilt, at budget price. A sensational disc: don’t miss it. 10/10 Artistic Quality, 8/10 Sound Quality

Los Angeles Times, May 2003

First off, let’s drop all that condescending “Chopin of the Creoles” business. Louis Moreau Gottschalk may have applied the mid-19th century European virtuosic piano style of his day to the music of his native New Orleans, Cuba and South America, but he was a true original whose experiments with vernacular rhythms and interesting harmonies anticipated everything from ragtime and hot jazz to Ivesian collage. The sophisticated piano writing is as arresting today as it was a century and half ago, and Licad’s dazzling crystalline tone and riveting rhythmic precision make her ideal for these 16 well-chosen selections. The recorded sound is excellent and so is the bargain price. 3 ?

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