Van Cliburn’s Tchaikovsky No. 1 concerto revisited

Cliburn Moscow

Van Cliburn’s named popped up on one of the piano forums. Would he have made the same formidable impression in today’s Moscow Competition as he did in 1958?

The answer is simply YES, and resurrecting a flashback of his winning performance sheds light on how and why his Tchaikovsky 1, at least for me, stands out as uniquely memorable. (I might add that I heard Van play the towering signature concerto at Lewisohn Stadium in the Bronx under the baton of Kiril Kondrashin upon the pianist’s US return)

It was evident that Van allowed the concerto to play itself with its unswerving, embedded lyricism. He didn’t toy with phrases, fight the bravura octaves, or apply extreme rubato to distort musical lines. His gorgeous singing tone was unabated through the most challenging cascades of notes and his thread of MELODY permeated the most dizzying passagework. Yet Van made his virtuoso journey look effortless with big, relaxed gestures of his arms that funneled energy down through his wrists into fluid finger approaches into the keys.

There was no battlefield landscape, as perhaps the 1812 Overture might have evoked. Van knew better than to leave listeners with a one dimensional warhorse impression. He respected the immense color palette of the composer’s creation and its underlying singing dimension.

In the concluding Presto movement, Van imbued more contrasts through rhythmically animated chords. He refused to carbon copy measures of the same. His playing had dynamic variation and riveting emotional engagement without a forced pushing, pulling, poking or prodding of phrases.

Finally, Cliburn was at all times a soloist and collaborator, embedded in expressive counterpoint/dialog with the orchestra in an interactively pulsating exchange.

On so many levels, Cliburn was a winner back in 1958, and I surmise, in today’s Moscow Competition 2015, he would be my undeniable favorite.

***
The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition resumes today, June 30, in a Medici TV beamed LIVESTREAM.

http://tch15.medici.tv/en/live/piano

LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/rekindling-memories-of-van-cliburn-the-cold-war-kirill-kondrashin-etc/

http://www.cliburn.org

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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9 Responses to Van Cliburn’s Tchaikovsky No. 1 concerto revisited

  1. Pingback: Van Cliburn’s Tchaikovsky No. 1 concerto revisited – Burning Bushes Music

  2. Pingback: Van Cliburn’s Tchaikovsky No. 1 concerto revisited | Henry Tan

  3. Pingback: Van Cliburn’s Tchaikovsky No. 1 concerto revisited | Liv Morales

  4. George’s final round wasn’t too shabby at all was it? Do you think he is in with a chance?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not at all shabby… Li should have landed the Gold so I’m sorely disappointed in the results. Yet the international exposure he received bodes well for a long-lasting career. George has a lot of “heart” and he gives 100% of himself to the music. Who can ask for more!

      Like

  5. John Viljoen says:

    A superb musical and learning experience. And it was nice to have the close-in shots of the keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for your kind feedback.

    Like

  7. Alan Lu says:

    Hi Shirley,
    This is da96103 from pianoworld.com Tchaikovsky XV thread. I am so pleased to discover your blog. This is such a treasure trove of information. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your insights and experience.

    I myself am not a pianist of any level. I am learning the flute as an adult learner (currently doing ABRSM grade 5 and 6) I decided that I need to be competent in one musical instrument so that I can play it when I reach old age.

    I have always been interested in piano music and enjoyed following the careers of pianists and piano competitions.

    Thanks again for your input in the forum. I will be listening to Van Cliburn’s Tchaik 1.

    Alan Lu, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Like

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