Today's Classical Music Video

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Van Cliburn: In Memoriam




Music-lovers around the world mourned the loss last week of Van Cliburn (1934-2013), one of the giants among Twentieth Century pianists. Cliburn astonished the world of music when he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958, at the age of 23. He then went on to become a legend in his own time. And that became part of the problem. The real Van Cliburn was continually faced with living up to the legendary Van Cliburn. In 1978 he withdrew from public performance. After some years in retirement he returned to concertizing but he now lacked the confidence of youth and more often than not gave performances far below his former high standards. Nonetheless, he will be remembered as an exciting performer who inspired millions.

He lived in Ft. Worth, Texas and became an icon of the community. He presided over the Van Cliburn Piano Competition held in Ft. Worth every four years. The competition was begun in 1962 and will be held this year May 24-June 9 in Ft. Worth.

In this 1962 video he is seen playing the last movement from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. Cliburn's recording of this work with these same collaborators for RCA Victor was the first record by a classical artist to sell more than a million copies.

Paul E. Robinson

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