Alban's Blog

In the Philippines with Cecile Licad

“What are you doing in Manila?” – with these words Cecile greeted me when I rang at her door of the (really nice) hotel. She knew I was coming, because two days later we were scheduled to play a recital together, but somehow she didn’t really believe I would make that trip all the way to Manila to play with her and also with the Philippines Philharmonic Orchestra. The answer is easy: I really love playing with this woman who with her instinctive way of approaching music helped me a lot to develop as a musician, to become freer and more expressive. Unfortunately we hardly get the chance to play together (don’t ask me why, I don’t know!!), so when asked if I would be willing to perform with her in her homecountry I didn’t hesitate. OK, the other truth is, that whenever we rehearsed in NY (her residence since many years), Cecile usually cooked for me some delicious food of her country, so part of the reason was also that I wanted to eat more of that 🙂And I assure you, I ate, alright, phantastic dishes in some phantastic homes; Cecile in her childhood was a protegé of the back-then first lady Imelda Marcos (also known as the shoe-lady) and good friends with her daughter Irene, who invited us to a memorable dinner at her beautiful home. I starved myself all day (only a bit of cereal in the morning) in order to be able to enjoy the dinner, and it was soooo worth it, you have no idea. The recital with Cecile was as always a very special treat (we both played some solo, she some Chopin, me the Ligeti Solosonata, and then together Janacek Pohadka, Beethoven A Major and Shostakovich Sonata) – and it’s fun to play in front of an audience with their home-town-heroine!

A day later both of us got to play a concerto with the orchestra which unlike the orchestras in Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur consists only of Philippinos, so there was a difference in quality to these orchestras filled with Europeans and Americans, but the overall quality was quite good. Big problem was the conductor who did not really know how to rehearse the difficult spots in Shostakovich’s First Celloconcerto. But as we had altogether three rehearsals the concert went well enough, even though the hall was half empty which changed in the second half when Cecile played her first Prokofiev No.3. Great piece and what a performance! I am so glad I didn’t become a pianist, because when I hear her play I would give up the piano altogether.

I should have posted this little write-up a while ago, actually last week, when I was sitting in the lounge in Amsterdam on my way back home, but somehow I didn’t manage to finish it, and since I never have time for anything when I am home I am putting the finishing touches down here in the artist foyer of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam where I will play my debut tommorrow with the Concertgebouw Orkest, one of the world’s best orchestras. Oh yes, I am nervous about it, very much so, because I am supposed to fill in for Truls Mörk who has cancelled almost half a year of concerts already before the summer break, and since I respect him very much I don’t want to let neither audience nor orchestra down by playing a boring Sinfonia Concertante.

In between these two very different “gigs” (Manila/Amsterdam) with Russian music I played a benefit concert in Berlin in the small hall of the Philharmonie, lazy first half (Ligeti and Shostakovich like in Manila) and the Schubert B Flat Major Trio with Steven Osborne and Viviane Hagner. During the rehearsals I was an utter disaster and admitted to my gorgeous collaborators (both playing better than I have ever heard them, really!) that I felt like never playing the cello again, that I hated music. I think it was a severe case of jet-lag, but I felt soooo empty and had no desire to work nor make music. The concert itself was very inspirational although I had let down some cello colleagues of mine by not playing “Kottos” by Xennakis but the Ligeti Solosonata. I had started far too late learning the piece and had to give up on my poor efforts of trying to learn this highly complicated work. Fact is that one should never believe my own feelings, since my “hatred” for music changed within 24 hours into deepest love again. Strange – maybe has something to do with my sign? Gemini… Two-faced, two-hearted…


  • ineke Eschbach-van Tijn


    How wonderful you played The Sinfonia Concertante this night !!!!
    Best wishes, Ineke Eschbach

  • Alban

    thanks, Ineke! Isn’t it a great piece?! I love it very much and can’t wait to play it again hopefully soon (no idea if it’s scheduled already…). All best to you,


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