Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Van Cliburn - Some Thoughts...

Van Cliburn was both a Power and an Enigma, it seems to me.  We have known him since his 23rd year, when  he achieved celebrity in Russia, and indeed the world, by coming out, in competition, on top of a group of brilliant young  pianists, which happened to include a little fellow by the name of Vladimir  Ashkenazy.
The  Power of this pianist is given to us by way of his performances  of the Barber Sonata and the Second Sonata by Rachmaninoff, both  of which come to mind as readings that rise to the levels of the Horowitz recordings of these two works. These two readings come from his strongest period; that is, the 60's  and 70's.
And then comes the Enigma, from around 1978 to 1987, where rumors of "burn-out' abounded. We hear almost nothing of the piano of Cliburn during this period. He then re-appears as a performer, but, in my view, those magical days of the earlier Cliburn remain the most striking and memorable.
His singular form of empathy for and support of young pianists of promise will be as well remembered, it seems to me, as the gift he left in so many of his recordings.



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