Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Recommended Posts

My husband and I are so very sad about Mr. Cliburn's passing. In my house growing up, Van was The Man. We loved his recordings. I never saw him perform live, but my husband did. Excerpted from CNN today, in Mr. Cliburn's own words at the end of the ticker-tape parade NYC gave him after winning the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958:

"I appreciate more than you will ever know that you are honoring me, but the thing that thrills me the most is that you are honoring classical music," Cliburn said. "Because I'm only one of many. I'm only a witness and a messenger. Because I believe so much in the beauty, the construction, the architecture invisible, the importance for all generations, for young people to come that it will help their minds, develop their attitudes and give them values. That is why I'm so grateful that you have honored me in that spirit."

May God bless you, Mr. Cliburn, you gave the world such beauty!

Link to comment

I know a lot of pianophiles don't really know what the make of Cliburn; achieving great success early on then burning out after a decade or so, but I think at his best he was a great pianist.

In particular, his romantic concerti recordings are often amongst the best versions out there (e.g. Rach 3).

Link to comment

I’m hardly expert enough to comment, but I gather that “early promise largely unfulfilled” as described in Anthony Tommasini’s obit for the NYT seems fair enough. Too much, too soon, perhaps (and possibly the temptation of easy money by sticking with the tried and true).


Despite the criticism, Mr. Cliburn tried to expand his repertory, playing concertos by MacDowell and Prokofiev and solo works by Samuel Barber (the demanding Piano Sonata), Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Liszt. But the artistic growth and maturity that were expected of him never fully came. Even as a personality, Mr. Cliburn began to seem out of step. In the late 1950s this baby-faced, teetotaling, churchgoing, wholesome Texan had fit the times. But to young Americans of the late 1960s he seemed a strained, stiff representative of the demonized establishment.
Link to comment


... to young Americans of the late 1960s he seemed a strained, stiff representative of the demonized establishment.

To the extent that that was true, that was their problem. You go to the art, you don't corrupt it to suit the fashions of the day, or you deprive yourself of that experience. "Fashions come and go, but a thing of beauty is a joy forever." Cliburn took us to the worlds of the pieces he played. His unfailingly beautiful tone was always in modest service of what he played, and consequently in service to the listener who had learned to hear.

Link to comment

The latter part of the paragraph is referring to Cliburn's public persona, not his music. I didn't have the feeling that Tommasini was saying it was anyone's problem - times change and in certain periods performers can seem, rightly or wrongly, old hat. Sometimes they come back, sometimes not.

His unfailingly beautiful tone was always in modest service of what he played,.......

Very nicely put, thank you.

Link to comment

Ansel Elgort has signed on to play Cliburn in a feature film bio.

The film is based on the Howard Reich book Van Cliburn, and Elgort will play the pianist in his formative years when, at age 23 in 1958, he emerged from out of nowhere to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. It was the first time the tournament was held, and was organized by the USSR after it had caught up to the U.S. in the nuclear arms race and completed the first successful space launch with Sputnik. Nikita Khrushchev saw the competition as a way to lord Soviet superiority at a time when tensions between the two superpowers were sky high.
Link to comment

I understand your skepticism, ballet_n00b, but you never know. It may be interesting to see how the subject is addressed, post-Cold War but with our Russian relations currently on the chilly side. And the idea of any feature film focused on a classical performer is heartening.

I haven't yet seen "The Fault in Our Stars" and so I have no way of appraising Elgort's acting skills. Would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen him before.

Link to comment

Yeah you're right, I was being a bit too cynical. At least, the film should inspire some youngsters to learn piano or take an interest in classical music.

I know I wouldn't have if I hadn't been forced to study Shine in school.

I just hope that there is a decent amount of "music" in this movie and not just cold war politics.

Link to comment

Tim Page reviews new books on Cliburn here. The Isacoff book sounds really good.


It seems that what happened was that Cliburn simply stopped growing, as though he was trapped in a creative stasis like a bug in amber. One thinks of James O’Neill, a distinguished actor who was the father of Eugene O’Neill. In later life, he only took on one role—Dumas’s Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo—and eventually played it more than six thousand times around the world. He made a great deal of money, but reproached himself for what he considered the squandering of his gifts. Likewise, Cliburn returned again and again to the Tchaikovsky concerto, long after he had ceased to have fresh insights into it.




Link to comment

I didn't even hear about this book, looks interesting.

At his best Cliburn did deserve his fame but he definitely wouldn't have won the Tchaikovsky if he'd have entered today. His technique was just too poor, for example I've never heard more wrong notes in Mazeppa. The Russians sometimes latch on to a competitor who reaches them, much like Debargue in the last installment (who, incidentally, was last placed amongst the finalists because of his less-than-worldclass technique).


Link to comment

Debargue wasn't so bad, considering how he stopped studying for a few years to study literature, and he learned so much music by ear.


He sure took Russia by storm:  he won the critics award, and his career has been going swimmingly.  I heard him play in Seattle in a piece that I don't even like, and he was all that.


I wish they had latched onto Reed Tezloff.

Link to comment

I didn't mean that as a criticism just that I know some of the jury wouldn't vote for him because he'd play scales using only fingers 123, things like that.

he is a major talent and actually has a naturally big technique, he just needs more "chair-time". 

I admire his playing very much, I saw him play his Medtner sonata and the Liszt sonata in April and will see him again in November (wanted to see the premiere of his piano trio this month but it's sold out).

i just meant that Cliburn wouldn't win today for the same reason Debargue didn't win. And honestly, Debargue's technique is much stronger than Cliburn's. 

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...