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This recording was instrumental in influencing the direction my life would take.
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.
I loved this album so much I have bought it four times; I wore out two vinyl copies and a CD. This is the best pianist of the 20th century playing some of the best piano music ever written. Van Cliburn's meteoric rise to fame was no accident. His effortless technical perfection, his ability to play the great works with feeling and grandeur are unique. On this album he has chosen 8 tracks that demonstrate the incredible breadth of Chopin's piano music.
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 ›
I am a fan of remasters. Old recordings receive a second wind through their re-release on a digitally-mastered CD. Van Cliburn is as convincing as ever in this Chopin recital. He sings through the instrument on the E major Etude. He goes to war on The A-Flat Polonaise. Van Cliburn and Chopin make a good match. An exceptional programme performed with virtuosity.
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No one can honestly argue that Van Cliburn is poor at Chopin. His lyrical pianism is at its incomparable best, especially (despite what some say) in the "Heroic" Polonaise. Please discount the negative reviews - I was sorry to read them. To date I've not heard one recording of the Polonaise that equals Cliburn's interpretation, except one rare film of Arthur Rubinstein performing it - it was just as good as Cliburn's, though not better. (I think it may be impossible to play it better.) (The film is in the movie, "Carnegie Hall." Amazon sells it, and while the plot is thoroughly ridiculous, the music is incredible.) 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."
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When I was young, I learned a couple of Chopin's shorter Preludes on the piano. I liked them so I decided to buy this record and see what some of his other works were like. I was blown away!! It made me a Chopin lover for life. On side 1 of the record (I'll always think of this as a record), the B Major Nocturne is a beautiful interlude between the mighty A Flat Polonaise and F Minor Fantaisie. Side 2 starts off with the 2 Etudes in A Minor and E Major, which contrast sharply in mood, but are equally brilliant. Cliburn's interpretation of the A Flat Ballade is maybe the best I've heard. As a Chopin interpreter, Cliburn strikes a nice balance between the metronome-like playing of Rubinstein and the flashiness of Horowitz. This is a very special recording for me as it made me want to get my hands on recordings of everything Chopin wrote, as well as music of his contemporaries such as Liszt and Schumann. And from there, it was on to many other composers of the various musical periods. But to me, Chopin will always stand above the rest in his originality and his ability to very quickly transport the listener to places of unsurpassed beauty.