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Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 / Rachmaninoff: Concerto No.2

4.7 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 12, 1993
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Van Cliburn, Tchaikovsky concerto No. 1 in flat minior ofp. 23 Rachmaninoff: concerto No2 in Minor, Op.18 Fritz Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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What a story there is behind this recording! When Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War with his playing of this concerto, it created an international sensation. The recording followed immediately thereafter, and Cliburn was launched on an international career of unprecedented celebrity for a classical musician. Perhaps the attention was too much, too soon, given his subsequent burn-out and retirement from public life. Fortunately, we have these unique recordings to document what was, by all accounts, a genuine phenomenon. This is the disc "heard 'round the world." --David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Performer: Van Cliburn
  • Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, RCA Victor Orchestra, RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Kiril Kondrashin, Fritz Reiner
  • Composer: Sergey Rachmaninov, Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
  • Audio CD (January 12, 1993)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA Red Seal
  • Run Time: 68 minutes
  • ASIN: B000003EUG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,232 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Van Cliburn's prize winning performance in the Tchaikovsky competition was with the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto and the Tchaikovsky first concerto (the latter is on this disk). Taking Russian music to the heart of Russia for a piano competition was one bold move! Upon his triumphal return to the United States, the Carnegie Hall concert (with conductor Kiril Kondrashin flown in from the USSR just for this event) and this subsequent recording were put together hastily in order to preserve the moment for history. And what a recording it is!
I have listened to over thirty recordings of the Tchaikovsky first piano concerto, and two stand out: Gary Graffman (with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra) and this Cliburn recording. He has all the piano technique for total mastery of this work---rapid and precise octaves, nimble fingerwork (particularly the presto middle section of the 2nd movement), a big sound (the opening allegro non troppo section), and a strong sense of the folk music basis for the main theme of the 3rd movement. Furthermore, only he and Graffman on record nail the notoriously tricky rhythmic pattern beginning the allegro con spirito main section of the 1st movement. He keeps careful balance with the orchestra throughout, and never resorts to excessive use of the pedal to cover up technical difficulties. Moreover, the performance is polished and intensely musical in every passage.
If you can tolerate an orchestra that isn't always impressive, then buy this Van Cliburn recording and be totally amazed!
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Format: Audio CD
I wasn't even born when Cliburn took the world by storm, winning the Tchaikovsky competition in the Soviet Union. But the legend still lived on when I was taking piano lessons at the age of nine. While I was growing up, listening to any Cliburn recording conjured up the swell of pride that our nation felt about him, and that extra-musical element added to the joy of his music-making.
We often focus on Cliburn's victory in the Soviet Union as a uniquely American victory. A lanky Texan walked into the Soviet Union, our Cold War enemy, and played Russian music to a severely discerning Russian audience, completely bowling them over. Khrushchev had to give permission to the judges to give Cliburn the Gold Medal because it represented such an embarassment to the Soviet Union to have their pianists lose to an American.
In truth, it was also a victory for the Russians. To find that their music could be played with such understanding and depth by a young man so culturally and geographically removed from the Russian people proved that Russian music is universal -- it transcends cultural boundaries. That an American could be taught to play Russian music so brilliantly could only mean that Russian music was so great and compelling that it could speak to the soul of any human being regardless of his or her background.
In other words, it was a win-win situation for America and Russia, and this recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto becomes the place of meeting where both Russians and Americans can celebrate. Having Kiril Kondrashin, the famed Soviet conductor, lead the orchestra only serves to make that point even clearer.
This extra-musical element has always imbued Cliburn's recording with a sense of occasion.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent recording and terrific playing of great music.
Last September, I saw this man play with the University of Iowa symphony orchestra the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and I was simply amazed. I was hoping the historic recording he made would be as good as the his terrific performance of the concerto......It found out it was. This is the concerto that made Cliburn known throughout the world if you ask me. If he hadn't have played this terrific concerto back in 1958 in the Tchaikovsky competition (which he won by the way), he would probably not have been as famous as he is. So, you should definitely here this magnificant pianist play the song that made who he is today. Plus, the concerto itself is so great anyway. Right when you hear Cliburn smashing away the chords to open the beautiful melody of the concerto, you'll be locked into it. Seriously. Now onto Rachmaninoff. Possibly the greatest pianist of the 20th century (i think he is anyway). There is a great story to the Rach's 2nd piano concerto. In 1897, when the composer debuted his first symphony, it was so poorly conducted by the conductor (who wasn't rach) it made people hate it. Rachmaninoff became so depressed afterwards, he couldn't compose, play, or even think about touching a key on the piano. He sought treatment from a hypnotist that always told him everyday that when he was cured he would write a masterpiece. Dr. Nikolai Dahl (the hypnotist) was abosolutely right. After treatment, Rachmaninoff wrote the 2nd concerto, now thought to be his masterpiece. I haven't heard the composer's recording of this great concerto, but Cliburn's recording will have you breatless through his playing.
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