A friend and I were at a concert last weekend and apropos to nothing really, I said, "Cliburn could die any day now." And Cliburn died the following Wednesday.
I couldn't always tell the difference between one great pianist and the other. Oh, I could recognize tempo of course, but not touch. Not until Cliburn.
When I first heard Cliburn, I mean, really heard him, it was back in the 90s, on the radio. I was driving away from a laundromat, rather at loose ends and without a particular destination. But magic visits or it doesn't, no matter where you are or what you're doing. It can hide all year long and then spring to life when you're washing your clothes after leaving a man, for instance. Magic's coy that way.
So this radio program played an old recording of Cliburn and Tchaikovsky's 1st, second movement. I'd never heard pearls dance before, dance in a mountain stream -- one pearl at a time to begin with, and then generous handfuls of pearls, pearls that sparkled in the sunlight and spray, pearls that bounced from rock to bank and bank to rock.
And suddenly it seemed right that pearls should, eventually and after all, fall back in the stream and drift softly away.
To this day, and in every aspect of my life, I have a problem distinguishing the bad from the good, the indifferent from the great. But I can always recognize Cliburn -- his touch and timing.
Let me say from the outset, the sound quality on this video is really poor. And you can get a wonderfully remastered recording. But I like the clip anyway, for his concentration, expression, and hands. All of which I take, personally.