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I wore out a vinyl copy of this recording when I was young. This album of Chopin as played by Van Cliburn spoke to me as a 10-year-old child. It comforted me through the death of close friends and inspired me to keep practicing the piano through the turbulent teen years. I came back to it many years later after pursuing a M.M. degree in music and found that it still held up. It is as inspiring, technically amazing, and as wonderful as I remember it as a child.
What I also find outstanding about this recording is the clarity and quality of the recorded sound. It sounds like it was recorded recently with the latest technology when it was actually recorded in 1961! Indeed, I prefer it over the quality of many "modern" discs I own.
My love of the piano led me to become a concert piano technician specializing in Steinway. When I learned to voice pianos I found I no longer liked most of the piano recordings in my collection. On the other hand, this recording only got better. I hold the piano in this recording as the ideal representation of the incomparable tone of the New York Steinway. When I voice a piano, my goal is to draw from it the warmth, color, and sheer beauty of tone found in this recording. I would be interested to know where this piano is today.
As the technician for a respected symphony orchestra in the U.S., I have tuned for many of the world's great pianists - including Van Cliburn. So it has come full circle. In my mind this is truly one of the top piano recordings of the twentieth century and Van Cliburn is one of its great pianists.
It opens with the stirring `Heroic' Polonaise, a piece found in many Chopin collections, but often played badly. Too many pianists treat this with exaggerated rubato, or worse as a race to finish as fast as possible. Chopin despised wildly exaggerated tempos (he kept a metronome on his student's piano at all times). Cliburn plays it as it was intended - with strength and majesty.
Following is the 19th Nocturne, a deeply introspective mood piece played with great feeling, its harp-like ending one of the most beautiful in classical music.
The Fantaise is Chopin's longest work, a powerful piece blending many themes of great beauty. Its mournful adagio section provides a tranquil interlude between many restless and turbulent passages.
Next are two of Chopin's popular Etudes, `Winter Wind', which boils and swirls up and down the keyboard, a piece of great technical difficulty perfectly played. The E major etude is by the composer's own admission "the most beautiful melody" he had ever penned.
The Ballade in A flat is infrequently recorded; a bright and happy piece who's dance-like opening statement comes back over and over in many delightful forms. Concluding with a great flourish, its easy to see why Cliburn chose this as a favourite; its fun to play.Read more ›
It's not only the Polonaise that is marvelous - every other piece is purely beautiful. The "Winter Wind" Etude is dazzlingly furious and is played with spine-tingling eloquence - and faintly wistful and sad is the Waltz in C-sharp minor. The fact that one so young could easily express so many and varied, thoroughly convincing emotions is just one proof of his genius. Your dollars will not go to waste on this CD recorded by one of history's greatest pianists, who has all the best qualities of the legendary virtuosos; while he humbly considers himself "just a tiny mirror of the great legends I have known."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sort of what I wanted, but I already own LPs with Van Cliburn playing Chopin & was hoping some pieces would be on it. They weren't. But this selection is good.Published 15 days ago by Lee Perinet
The recording was great . van Cliburn was up to his usual greatness. Music selections on the cd were above aveage for a cd such as this.Published 3 months ago by Mary Beth Fentriss
I had the privilege of meeting Van Cliburn (even shook his hand) back in the vinyl, pre-Internet 70s, so seeing this album brought back a lot of fond memories. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Doug Bradley
Nicely played and wide ranging selections of the great Chopin. Descent hi-fi quality recording. Well recommended!Published 4 months ago by Glen W.