mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Cold War

path to winning . . .

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Okay, so this is probably the last post I’ll make (for awhile at least) about the 1958 Van Cliburn Tchaikowsky competition. Not only had Russia just launched Sputnik six months earlier at the height of the Cold War, but this was also the very FIRST Tchaikowsky competition ever.

In an interview, Van Cliburn said that he was greeted at the airport by a very nice Russian woman who mispronounced his name – so in Russia, he was known as “Van CLEE-BURN.”

In addition, he said to the interviewer that it was an incredible jury which included world-famous musicians: Dmitry Kabalevsky, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter and chaired by the composer, Dmitri Shostakovitch! Apparently, there were some shenanigans in the scoring that went on as described in the article below – wherein certain jurors were scoring the American with mediocre marks (15s & 16s out of 25.)

Sviatoslav Richter caught on to this and began giving Van Cliburn all 25s, perfect marks while scoring everybody else with zeroes! “Either they have it or they don’t!” Richter was quoted as saying. The jury approached Khrushchev to get his approval for them to declare their choice of Van Cliburn as the winner. On the way home, the stewardess on the plane showed the pianist a copy of TIme Magazine with a pastel portrait of Van Cliburn on the cover.

Postcript:
Liu Shu Kun was a Chinese pianist who placed second in the 1958 Tchaikowsky competition when Van Cliburn won the gold medal. As a pianist, I was introduced to Liu Shu Kun when I visited Beijing in the 1970’s. AND he visited my home in Lexington, MA. in the 1980’s during a trip to the States. Small world, right?

http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/33_folder/33_articles/33_vancliburn.html

the piano . . .

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This summer, I seem to have found my way back to the piano again.

Being able to listen to pianists on our large-screen TV has also helped to inspire me to practice more. After all, when you can witness someone blind from birth (N. Tsuji, who shared the Gold Medal in 2009 Van Cliburn competition) playing Chopin’s first Etude in C major without missing a note, it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself that you can’t even play it at a slow tempo with your eyes open!

The other night, G. and I watched the film taken live of Van Cliburn performing the Tchaikovsky piano concerto in Moscow, conducted by Kiril Kondrashin. His charisma and rather theatrical performance won the hearts of that rapt Russian audience. The jury hesitated before awarding him the gold medal because of the Cold War that was going on between Russia and the United States at the time. And so they asked Khrushchev if he would approve their choice. He asked, “Does he deserve it? Is he the best?” and they said “YES!”

And the rest is history! — including a ticker tape parade celebrating Van Cliburn’s triumph in New York City upon his return to the U.S. Seeing these historic moments are enough to move me to tears every time I watch it. Here’s a link to a Youtube clip of this momentous performance posted In Memoriam when Van Cliburn died in 2013.

I’ve also observed how many really fine pianists there are who are still unknown and who play with so much love for this fabulous instrument! We are so fortunate to have our pianos and it’s wonderful to be playing them again!