Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Great Cliburn

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.

23 comments:

  1. This post is itself a handful of pearls, worthy of reflection on what writing can do, especially writing with music as its subject.

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  2. That's love. His touch really is exquisite, kb.

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  3. It's not easy to describe music in words, but you've got a real talent for it. I, too, saw those pearls in the stream.

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  4. Fine piece Karin. The words danced too.

    As for the laundromat, well, from South Pacific: I'm gonna wash that man right outta my clothes........

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  5. Beautiful and sincere.

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  6. He couldn't ask for a better remembrance than this.

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  7. Thanks so much for your kind words, because this is one love letter I wanted to get right.

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  8. Very nicely said. So you know (I knew you knew, of course) what I mean when I talk about the gifts in a poem. When we lose a master, it is, for me, a double response--sadness, of course, but also gratitude.

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  9. Wonderful tribute! And, as John Evans noted, your writing is a handful of pearls, glistening.

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  10. Gorgeous. You, your writing I mean.

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  11. Ditto, everyone. And I'm going to listen to the video. But just, please, don't make any predictions about my death.

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  12. Thanks so much. Wonder if I can have Cliburn accompany all my pieces.

    Petrea, that rumor I started -- greatly exaggerated.

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  13. Technical virtuosity, emotional transparency and soul. Magical.

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  14. Despite 8 years of classical piano training as a child, I'm more familiar with Christina Perri and Coldplay these days. Sad eh. Especially for an old fella.

    I closed my eyes, played your video and really enjoyed it.

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  15. He has the longest thumb I've ever seen on a human being

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  16. I was eight years old. My mother was a classical violinist and my father loved classical music, so I was raised in a household that paid attention to such moments.

    Already at such a young age I was going through duck-and-cover drills at school to prevent injuries from shattering window panes in the event of a nuclear bomb.

    But for a moment during the very scary Cold War, everyone in the world stopped and listened.

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  17. Ann, I can't think of a better bookend to this post. Thanks.

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  18. Beautiful, Karin. Your words, his music gave me chills.

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  19. Everyone loves it when folks come together and share views.
    Great site, stick with it!

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  20. So beautiful, Karin! I never heard this pianist before... Thanks for introduce him to me.

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