HEROES ARE HARD TO FIND

June 3, 2013 – 4:59 am

Maestros even harder. This 54-year-old recording should be in the Public Domain for free sharing.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

VAN CLIBURN
Schumann, Rachmaninoff - Boston 1958 [no label, 2CD]

with Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Munch conducting
Live at the Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; October 05, 1958, recorded by WQXR New York. This rebroadcast on WCRB HD-FM Boston, March 09, 2013. Ex FM stereo. A Zootype project.

Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr.;
July 12, 1934 - February 27, 2013

Rock fans who don’t know their “Vans” from their “van”, note that Van Cliburn is NOT Dutch but a Texan. He is classical music’s own “Van the Man”. To quote that oft-told legend as told by AllMusic.com:

In the tensest days of the Cold War - of Civil Defense, air raid sirens, bomb shelters, atomic angst, and the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik that put the Russians first into space - handsome, lanky 6′ 4″, 23-year-old Van Cliburn, with his Southerner’s air of innocent modesty and tremendous keyboard technique, in April 1958 carried off the Gold Medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow with a transcendent performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Below is an excerpt from “The Era of Van Cliburn” by Betty Blair, an article that appeared in Azerbaijan International, in their autumn issue, 1995. It is a very good account of how Van Cliburn became an American hero.

Fifty contestants from more than 19 countries took part in the competition which demanded three performances in front of a jury that was composed of some of the finest musicians ever gathered, including pianists Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels (Jury Chair and first Soviet musician to perform in the US); Lev Oborin; Dmitry Kabalevsky (composer); Sir Arthur Bliss (Master of the Queen’s Music from England); and others. The General Chairman for the entire competition (piano and violin) was the renowned symphonic composer and conductor, Dmitry Shostakovich.

Actually, Van Cliburn’s virtuosity turned out to be rather embarrassing for the Soviet jurists. Some had already selected Lev Vlasenko, a Russian pianist, as the winner. Cliburn presented a dilemma. No one was quite sure how Khruschev would respond to a foreigner, especially an American, winning the Grand Prize of the very first Tchaikovsky Competition.

It has since been discovered that some of the jurists, fearing Khruschev’s indignation, were boycotting Cliburn despite his brilliant performances. On a scale of 0-25, some gave him scores of 15s, 16s and 19s and added one or two points more for other participants - just a slight enough difference to make no one suspicious that anything illegal was taking place.
Richter and a few others sensed what was happening and they set out to distort the scheme by giving Van the highest scores possible, perfect 25s. In the meantime, Richter gave twelve of the contestants zeros, even though some of them were quite good. When confronted by the head of the jury for his idiosyncratic voting patterns, Richter replied, “People either make music, or they don’t.”

By the time Cliburn was scheduled to play his third and final round in the competition, all tickets were sold out. There wasn’t even standing room. Like all participants, he had to perform concertos by both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. He chose Tchaikovsky’s No. 1 in B-flat Minor, and Rachmaninoff’s No. 3 in D-Minor. The orchestra was conducted by Kiril Kondrashin of whom Cliburn sings only the highest praises: “He was one of the most fabulous conductors that Russia ever produced.

(Cliburn would later bring Kondrashin to tour in the States, the first Soviet conductor to do so).

After Van finished playing, the Hall burst into applause! Everything backstage was in absolute confusion. “There was a rule that after you had taken your bow and left the stage, you could never return again.” But the ovation continued for eight and a half minutes. “Suddenly, I saw Gilels coming towards me,” Van recalls.

“He took me by the hand and led me back on stage where he embraced me publicly. The year before, I had heard this brilliant pianist play at Carnegie Hall and had admired him immensely, so his extraordinary public gesture overwhelmed me. He saw the jurists giving him a standing ovation and also was able to distinguish Khruschev’s daughter and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium up in the Officials’ Boxes. “It was such a thrilling moment.” But the competition wasn’t over. Several finalists had still not performed.

Getting Khruschev’s Approval

It became clear to Gilels that the only thing he could do about this Cliburn phenomenon was to approach Khruschev directly about the Prize and let him make the decision. So together with the Minister of Culture, Ekaterina Furtsava, they sought Khruschev’s opinion. “Well, what are the professionals saying?” Khruschev wanted to know. “Is Cliburn the best?” They avowed that he was. “Then, in that case,” concluded the Communist Party Chief, “give him the Prize!”

Hero’s Welcome Back Home

Winning the competition catapulted Van into stardom. He made the cover of “Time Magazine” as “The Texan Who Conquered Russia” (May 19, 1958). A caption showing him receiving the Tchaikovsky gold from Shostakovitch read, “He may be Horowitz, Liberace and Presley all rolled into one.”

When he returned to the United States, he was greeted like no classical pianist had ever been before. For the first time in history, New York City commemorated the achievement of a classical pianist with a ticker tape parade - a distinction usually reserved for celebrating the conclusion of wars, or for admiring national figures such as presidents, astronauts, or sports heroes, but not a 23-year-old classical pianist. A trip to Washington to meet President Eisenhower followed. Then there were sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall, and a string of concerts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, London, and Paris. Cliburn recorded Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Kondrashin for RCA. It sold a million copies very quickly and was the first classical recording to do so. It now has exceeded three million.”

This recording by that lanky, tall Texan in October of that SAME year is indeed something to be treasured coming so close to his historic win. Wooed from every side, Cliburn decided to go to Boston and made his debut performance with the Boston Symphony. It has never been released officially.

Zootype who shared this show on Dime in March 2013 said, “This recording has some flaws including bumps and clicks and occasional rumble from clipping or tape damage - the flaws I couldn’t repair were present in both of the two times this recording was broadcast on WCRB.”

Thanks Zootype for this archive recording.
- Professor Red

Source/lineage:
FM-HD tuner > PC > Soundforge > stereo 16-bit 44.1kbps WAV > tracked and edited in Soundforge > WAVs > SBEs repaired, checksum and FLAC-8 files created in Trader’s Little Helper

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (224 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Please Do Not Hammer The Links. Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. The tracks should still be around. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Program:
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor [1845]
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.3 [1909]

Disc 1 (38:59 minutes)
Track 101. radio intro A 4:09 (7.0MB)
Track 102. radio intro B 0:34 (956k)
Robert Schumann:
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Track 103. I Allegro affettuoso (A minor) 15:55 (26.8MB)
Track 104. II Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso (F major) 5:01 (8.5MB)
Track 105. III Allegro vivace (A major) 10:51 (18.3MB)
Track 106. radio outro 2:25 (4.1MB)

Disc 2 (50:24 minutes)
Track 201. radio intro A 5:36 (9.4MB)
Track 202. radio intro B 0:26 (732k)
Sergei Rachmaninoff:
Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op. 30

Track 203. I Allegro ma non tanto 16:57 (28.5MB)
Track 204. II Intermezzo: Adagio attaca subito / III Finale: Alla breve 25:12 (42.4MB)
Track 205. radio outro 2:10 (3.6MB)

Total: 89:22 minutes

The good thing about classical music is that it is OLD music. Many of the greats had their recordings done more than 50 years ago and can be had at a low price today. One of the best bargains is Van Cliburn - Complete Album Collection, with 29 discs collecting all his recordings with RCA. It sells for £41 in the UK or US$59 here.

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  1. 6 Responses to “HEROES ARE HARD TO FIND”

  2. Thanks, bigO!

    By NAMoosedog on Jun 3, 2013

  3. A very good story, and the only ones not pliaying foul games seem to have been the piano planer and mr, kruschev, so who’s the hero of them?

    By Henning2804 on Jun 3, 2013

  4. Please also read the reviews on Amazon, click the link provided. It is truly a great deal at $59! If you have no classical music in your library, dl the above concert, but also get the 28 CDs and 1 DVD for only $59. Do it! Especially if you are young. Especially if you have children or grandchildren studying music or learning piano. Van Cliburn’s RCA recordings are the most clearly heard version of many classical pieces.

    By 5yrsnojob on Jun 3, 2013

  5. I met Van Cliburn when he came to the cemetery I work at to visit Rachmaninoff,s grave drove him and two others he was a very nice person.

    By Charlie on Jun 4, 2013

  6. uhuh “van clitburn”

    By Silly Bugger on Jun 7, 2013

  7. Van Cliburn was the man!

    By Bwonk on Jun 7, 2013

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