The New Yorker once called her a pianist's pianist. She became internationally known for her daring virtuosity.
She enrolled in the Curtis Institute of Music when she was 12, moving to the United States and studying with Rudolf Serkin, Seymour Lipkin, and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, all highly regarded performers and pedagogues.
She became in 1981 one of the youngest musicians to be awarded the Leventritt Competition Gold Medal.
Her family was musical, and she was three when she started taking lessons from her mother, Rosario Licad.
She earned the 1985 Grand Prix du Disque Frederic Chopin award for her interpretation and recording of the composer's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2.