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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Original 'Van the Man' Dies at 78

The great Van Cliburn, suffering for so long from bone cancer, has died at 78 in Fort Worth.  Most folks today could be forgiven for not knowing much or anything but he was a true giant in my youth, in late 1950s and early 1960s, when he was on TV often and helped forge an easing in the Cold War in his much-covered trips to the Soviet Union.  With Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould, he also helped "popularize" classical music at that time (or as much as it could be).  He faded from view later, although he still hosted the important Cliburn piano competition every year, and drew notice when he came out as gay.  

From my friend Tim Page's obit just now at The Washington Post:  "Mr. Cliburn’s achievement was reported on the front pages of newspapers throughout the world. He returned home to a New York ticker-tape parade and the sort of shrieking, unfettered adulation that a few years later would be transmuted into Beatlemania. In May 1958, Time magazine put him on its cover with a banner that read The Texan Who Conquered Russia."

Here is one of my favorite music videos--Van doing Beethoven's  piano concerto No. 5, 2nd movement, in Moscow, as young man.  Never been better.


spooked said...

Nice performance-- and some of the most beautiful Beethoven works I know of in this movement.

Though the piano part here isn't really difficult to play, technically speaking.

Bearger said...

Absolutely beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing!
It's definitely one of my favorites - right up there with Piano Trio No. 4 in D Major.
(Which you seem to enjoy, as well - judging by your posting of my "Ghost - Beethoven/Oldman" video!)

Laurence Glavin said...

In those days, commercial broadcast (by and large, broadcast was the ONLY type of television distribution)TV frequently offered classical music programming, operatic excerpts and even full-length operas. Variety shows hosted by the likes of Ed Sullivan had classical instrumentalists and opera singers as guests, and Firestone Tire and Rubber sponsored an entire 30-minute program, "The Voice of Firestone", on NBC, and then ABC in prime time until 1963 that consisted of principally such musical offerings. Hmmmthey never played Bach's "Musical Offering"; too exotic! So it's possible that millions of Americans in a time when the population f the country was half what it is today had some exposure to classical music, and that's part of the reason so many people gathered in New York for the ticker-tape parade.

Joseph said...

Thanks for posting this news about Van Cliburn. I have loved his version of Piano Concerto No. 5 since I was a kid. My older sister used to play it over and over. I listen to it quite often and I'm thrilled to know there's a video of him playing it.
Joe Burns
Falmouth, Mass.