Thursday, December 20, 2007

Seeing a Legend

Van Cilburn was in town. How our small-town, but with a magnificent symphony, landed this virtuoso pianist is beyond me, but he was there. We saw him and heard him.

Yes, it was a fund-raiser, and the prices were elevated, and the orchestra donated some of their time to put on the concert, but it was worth it all. When I was in high school I saw Sandy Kofax pitch. I saw Stan Musial at the end of his career. I saw Ray Charles. It is a distinct privilege to be a witness to greatness. Van Cliburn, in his 70s, was great! I had heard of him, of course, when he won the first Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow in 1958. (I was 12 and my mother bought one of his recordings.) This concert 50 years later was marvelous.

Our view was from the balcony, but the acoustics of the hall are such that the sound is stunning from any seat. Cliburn is a tall man. When he walked on stage he seemed to tower above the whole scene, dominating it, but humbly, like a person not used to his height. When he sat at the piano and started playing, he still dominated, but all humility was gone. I noticed his hands like one would notice hands sticking out of too short sleeves. Those wonderful hands involved his whole being in the music. I had tears from the first notes. You can read a review by our local guy (Ken Keuffel, whom I affectionately call "kerfuffel") here. I don't do music reviews.

We all stood and cheered after the first movement, a real no no, faux pas not so many years ago. But our music director, Robert Moody, agrees that we should applaud when we feel moved. Not a soul was unmoved after that first movement. I'm listening to it now on a recording from RCA Victor Red Seal now on CD. I'm still moved. Van Cliburn did three encores. We did not want the evening to end. He did some Chopin fantasie impromtus, or such, and ended by accompanying the house as we sang Happy Birthday to the principle sponsor, Ms Hanes, of underwear fame. (manufacturing, not wearing)

I have to mention, again, the orchestra. We are truly blessed with a symphony that belies our town's small size, but demonstrates our wealth of talent. We draw musicians from four universities, including The North Carolina School of the Arts: faculty and students.

Gone to a live concert lately? Do it. The rewards are worth the hassle of getting there, and you cannot repeat a live performance on any sound system yet invented. Do it!

BRB is Write (and cannot wait for the next concert in February)


Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Going to live concerts is one of the most important and bracing activities of my life. Van Cliburn is a magnificent musician, too. Glad you had the opportunity to get out and experience such fine music.

1:46:00 AM  
Blogger brbiswrite said...


Thanks for the comment. We don't get out to too many concerts, but the Winston-Salem Symphony series is one we make every effort to attend. We have been there for Perlman, Midori, and now Cliburn. And we do feel blessed at that.


11:26:00 AM  

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