From the Annals of Objectively Superior Music—Van Cliburn (reprised to mark Cliburn's death today)

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sun, 2008-04-13 04:21

TV channel-surfing the other night, I came across some mellifluous old fart on Jim Lehrer's Newshour mellifluating about real music. "Who is that mellifluous old fart?" I asked myself. Delectably camp, he seemed like classical music's answer to Liberace. I quickly realised from the still-handsome features and the intact, distinctive shock of hair that it was none other than Van Cliburn, the prodigy who had caused a sensation by winning the first-ever international Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958. It wasn't just that he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1 so brilliantly that caused such a stir—it was the fact that he was an American, and there was a Cold War going on. Officials had to ask Premier Khruschev permission to award Cliburn the prize. Khruschev, memorably described by Nathaniel Branden as a "blustering anthropoid," is reported to have said, in what must have been a singularly non-anthropoidal moment: "Is he the best? Then give him the prize!" Cliburn then returned to a New York ticker tape parade, the first ever for a classical musician. His subsequent recording of the concerto was the best-selling classical album in the world for more than a decade.

The reason for his being on television the other night was to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Moscow competition. The following is the third movement from the great work as performed by Van four years later in Moscow with Khruschev in attendance (he's the bald old fart one sees applauding at the end). This is as good as it gets, folks. Or should I say, as glorious as it has yet gotten.

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I'm no classical connoisseur...

Jameson's picture

... but for me that version of Beet's 2nd movement was majestical... in a, y'know, like a painfully excellent kinda way. Smiling

Re: the Beethoven...

Olivia's picture

Amazing. Incredibly tender and reverent. Achingly beautiful. He plays it as a full act of pure worship - as this piece should be approached. This is Values Swoon material for me. Romantic, full of heart, reverent and so, so melodious... it always leaves me wanting more before it leads in to the next movement - I never quite feel ready to be taken out of this divine place.

I love the slower tempo that Cliburn plays it at, most people rush through it - whereas for the reasons I stated above, I like to savour every single note.

Great find.

I'd urge everybody on SOLO to listen to this piece of perfection... especially when life circumstances let you down, or the drooling beasts get to you. This is the sweetest antidote. Lets you remember that perfection IS attainable on Earth.

Oh, and ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... if that weren't sublime enough for you, try this: the second movement of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Excruciatingly exquisite:

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