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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Remembering Van Cliburn

The music world is mourning the death of the legendary American pianist Van Cliburn. In an interview with the “Voice of Russia” his colleagues remember him as a phenomenon in the world of art and also as a very kind person.
Van Cliburn’s attachment to Russia started with his victory in the 1st International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. Then he conquered Russians with his great playing and great charm. After his triumph at the contest the pianist came to Russia with concerts many times and made friends with many of his Russian colleagues. Professor of the Moscow Conservatory Alexander Bonduryansky is one of them:
"He was a great master and an incredible man, very open to people, to the world, gave people joy. He was invited to the 14th Tchaikovsky contest as an honored member of the jury. When he entered the hall the audience burst into a storm of applause. People even wanted to touch him as a living legend. The Moscow Conservatory always had good relations with Van Cliburn. We were very touched when we received a letter from him with the request to take as a gift a certain amount of money from him for promotion of young talents. This sum will form the base of the Van Cliburn scholarship."
Van Cliburn raised this money by auctioning his favorite grand piano. This gift became his last friendly gesture to the Moscow Conservatory. Those who witnessed his performance of the 1st Tchaikovsky concert on the stage of the Moscow Conservatory will never forget it, Maxim Shostakovich, pianist and conductor recalls.
"He was absolutely emotionally free and this amazed everyone. He was playing not to show his technique - he was free as a bird, he was at home with this concert."
Van Cliburn received the first prize of the contest from the hands of great Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich. Later Van Cliburn invited his son Maxim Shostakovich to sit in the jury of his own piano contest in Forth Wart, Texas. Back in the Soviet times this contest was won by Vladimir Viardo who is now on the list of the most outstanding piano professors in the US. The young generation of the winners of Van Cliburn contest include Olga Kern and Alexander Kobrin. Even in his country Van Cliburn remained connected to Russia. Composer Alexander Zhurbin who spent many years in the US recalls.
"In America he took part in one of the events I organized on the occasion of the 850 anniversary of Moscow. It was a big concert in the Carnegie Hall. We invited a lot of Americans who were somehow connected to Russia and of course Van Cliburn was number one on the list. He made a special video address to the Russian people saying how he appreciated all this. He was a great musician and a real romantic."
Music critics say that Van Cliburn belongs to the Russian pianist school because his teacher in the US was Russian pianist Rozina Levina. Every time he came to Moscow he first of all went to Red Square to St. Basil Cathedral. American music critic Josef Horowitz also shared his memories about Van Cliburn with the “Voice of Russia” .
"He dreamt of being Russian and in 1958 he made his dream come true when he came to Moscow in the heat of the Cold War and played the first piano concert by Tchaikovsky. He impressed everyone with his interpretations of pieces by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. All the leading musicians of that time including Svyatoslav Richter admitted that there was something supernatural in his playing. For Americans it was a sensation to learn that they had brought up a talent that impressed Russians."
Van Cliburn will be remembered as a great pianist and a man of incredible kindness. His charm and popularity helped millions of people discover the world of classical music.


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