The Beethoven connections of Filipino musicians

Pianist Mariel Ilusorio at Steinway Boutique

A grand celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birth anniversary unfolds in Manila on Saturday February 22 with the country’s leading artists interpreting some of the composer’s works in special recitals.

It is a coincidence that one of the country’s leading pianists, Cecile Licad, was honed by eminent pianist Rudolf Serkin, considered one of the greatest interpreters of Beethoven in the 20th century.

Licad is also in the concert line up of the Maryland Lyric Opera along with Leon Fleisher, another great pianist with direct link to Beethoven.

Fleisher was the youngest student ever of piano icon Artur Schnabel who studied with keyboard giant and pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky, a pupil of Carl Czerny, who in turn studied with Ludwig van Beethoven.

Italian pianist Christian Leotta once told me after his all-Beethoven recital in Manila some years back: “How they play Beethoven is also my idea of how this famous composer should be interpreted. I can’t define it, but interpreting Beethoven needs a special attention to the way you should produce the sound and how to sustain it and make something magical out of it. You discover that special something by constant practice.”

Cecile Licad with the greatest Beethoven interpreter of the 20th century, Rudolf Serkin.


A New York Times review of Serkin’s 1941 recording of Beethoven “Kreutzer” sonata with violinist Adolf Busch rhapsodized:“Busch seems at times to be playing his violin not with a bow but with a saw, while Serkin’s thrillingly torrential yet manically precise pounding seems to shudder the frame of his mighty Steinway. The frenzy of such performances is a rage of virtue, the sound of a passionate devotion that borders on possession.”

Happening on Saturday, February 22 at Manila Pianos is an all-Beethoven program consisting of the Archduke Trio, the Sonata in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer” and the Cello Sonata in F Op. 5 No. 1.

Featured artists are violinist Jeanne Rafaella Marquez, cellist Justin Vincent Louis Talusan and pianist Mariel Ilusorio.

Violinist Jeanne Rafaella Marquez in performance


For the young violinist, Beethoven simply heightens her emotion. “The way Beethoven writes his music is very special, whatever he felt at the time of writing is always embedded on the pieces in which he wrote. The challenge in playing Beethoven's music is figuring out the way he would have liked it to be interpreted. The challenge of chamber music in my opinion is being able to connect with the music and the players at the same time and also being able to feel each other's presence.”

For the equally young cellist, Beethoven represented the intensity of classical music at his time. “Beethoven always tried something new with his works and it isn't surprising to me that he was one of the composers that pushed the classical era to a new one.”

For him, the challenge is being extremely aware of fellow musicians while being in control of one’s own playing. “You can have different opinions and you will have to find a middle ground. You have to adjust to different sounds and find a unified sound that blends together.”

Cellist Justin Talusan


For pianist Ilusorio, chamber music is supporting co-players all the way. “I strive to support my partners as much as I can to make them feel free to express what they want to with conviction while also being able to express what I want to say about the music. I want to inspire them and give them positive energy to feel comfortable and create a special atmosphere that will communicate joy and beauty to the listeners. I strive to feel the music together and be sensitive to each other.”

For her, Beethoven represents the highest artistic level of classical music with a lot of power, drama, and a whole range of emotions that express many facets of life. “He is intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. His music is a complete expression of life and art.”

(For tickets, call Ticketworld 8891-9999 and CAEO at 87827164 or 0918-347-3027. The festival is made possible in partnership with the Manila Piano Artists Series and Embassy of Singapore with Marco Polo Ortigas Manila -- the official residence of the festival-- with DZFE.FM the Masters' touch, Smart communication, Enrique Zobel Foundation, Novellino Wines and National Commission for Culture and the Arts.)

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