Friday, March 1, 2013

Van Cliburn (1934-2013)


SCHUMANN (arr. Liszt): "Widmung" ("Dedication")

Van Cliburn plays the Liszt arrangement of Schumann's exhilarating song "Widmung" ("Dedication"), c1970.

by Ken

I want to put off doing a proper memorial to pianist Van Cliburn until I get the copy of RCA's newly released Van Cliburn: The Complete Album Collection which I ordered as soon as I saw that it exists, not realizing at the time that he had in fact just died.

The easy way to go would have been with the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, the piece that became so identified with him when he rocketed to fame in 1958 (at age 23) with his grand-prize win at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Instead I thought we'd lead with a solo piece we heard played by Arthur Rubinstein in the November 2011 Sunday Classics post "And then came 'Widmung' " -- and then the following week played by the great American Romantic Earl Wild.

I think we hear here the basic Cliburn virtues: the beautiful, clean, effortlessly full sound and the wholesome extrovert temperament.

Compare:

SCHUMANN (arr. Liszt): "Widmung" ("Dedication")

Van Cliburn, piano. RCA/BMG, recorded c1970

Arthur Rubinstein, piano. RCA/BMG, recorded in New York City, Mar. 11-12, 1947

Earl Wild, piano. Onyx, recorded in New York City, January 1985

We heard Cliburn play the opening movement of the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto, from his 1962 recording with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, in the April 2010 post "In perfect balance -- Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, where everything comes together just right." For tonight I thought we'd go in a very different direction.

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 73 (Emperor):
ii. Adagio un poco mosso


Van Cliburn, piano; Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, cond. RCA/BMG, recorded May 1961


RCA's Van Cliburn: The Complete Album Collection contains 29 CDs (re-creating all of his RCA LPs) plus a book and a DVD.
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