Quantcast
Latest Stories

A sad Christmas for Van Cliburn

By

VAN CLIBURN at age 23 with Soviet Union’sNikita Khruschev. VAN CLIBURN FOUNDATION PHOTO

It’s a sad, uncertain Christmas for pianist Van Cliburn, who was diagnosed with advanced bone cancer late this year.

Musicians will remember him as the first winner of the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition.

That edition of  the competition was significant for many things. It was an event intended to showcase the cultural superiority of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War era.  It unfolded right after their successful Sputnik launching in October 1957.

As it turned out, the judges were clearly more  impressed with the American pianist’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in the final round. The audience showed its agreement by giving him an eight-minute standing ovation.

But would that jury verdict sit well with the Soviet leadership?

Just to make sure the jury wouldn’t be in trouble, they were obliged to ask clearance from Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev, who  said, “Is the American pianist the best in that batch of finalists?”

The jury nodded, and the Soviet leader announced: “Then give him the prize.”

For the first time in the history of classical music in America, an American pianist was given a ticker-tape parade in New York, normally reserved for beauty queens and rock stars.

The 1958 Time Magazine cover story read: “The Texan who conquered Russia.”

For the record, a Filipino made history when Rowena Arrieta placed fifth in the seventh edition of the Tchaikovsky Competition in the mid-1980s.

Imelda’s pal

Fourteen years after that New York ticker-tape parade, Cliburn was one of the visitors of Imelda Marcos when she was hospitalized after an assassin tried to kill her with a bolo during a speaking engagement in 1972.

VAN CLIBURN with FerdinandMarcos, Imelda Marcos, Lucrecia Kasilag, and England’s prima ballerina assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn. FLICKER YAHOO PHOTO
BY RAMON LOPEZ

The friendship between Imelda and the American pianist so blossomed that the latter agreed to give a fund-raising concert for the benefit of young talented Filipino musicians.

When Cliburn arrived in Manila in the early ’70s for the concert, the one who gave him the welcome bouquet at the airport was no other than Cecile Licad,  Imelda Marcos’ favorite prodigy.

That Cliburn concert raised money for the Young Artists Foundation, which funded several aspiring musicians, among them Licad, Rowena Arrieta, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, the Bolipata brothers, and Noel Velasco.

In another fund-raising concert at the Araneta Coliseum with the Cultural Center of the Philippines Orchestra (now the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra), Cliburn played the Grieg concerto without  rehearsal.

The pianist had been stuck in Leyte with Imelda and arrived in Manila just in time for the concert. CCP president Kasilag greeted Cliburn and Valencia backstage: “Amazing how this concerto went very well without a rehearsal!”

A few years later, in the  young Licad’s first performance at Van Cliburn’s home state, Texas, Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn, the pianist’s mother, was so impressed she slipped  $100 in the prodigy’s concert gown after her performance with the Forth Worth Symphony.

Forty-three years after Van Cliburn played at the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, it was Licad’s turn to play in the same venue in 2011, as soloist in the Brahms concerto with the Russian State Orchestra.

Licad said it was also the first time she set foot in the famous Tchaikovsky Hall where the likes of Otto Klemperer, Artur Rubenstein, Yasha Heifetz, Marian Anderson, Artur Honegger, Bela Bartok, David Oystrakh and Emil Gilels had performed.

VAN CLIBURN with US President Obama after he received a National Medal for the Arts at the White House last year.

“The Tchaikovsky Hall is simply incomparable when it comes to the sound,” she said. “This hall has everything an artist can ask for. The organizers care about you, and the musicians not just knew every note of the music but they also have a unique way of projecting the sound the best that you can think of. Their music-making is not just about power. They care a lot about the quality of sound. For this reason, this Moscow concert is simply heaven-sent.”

Cliburn contest

Even the international piano competition carrying Cliburn’s name has Filipino connections.  Two Filipino musicians—the late conductor Luis Valencia and National Artist for Music Lucrecia Kasilag—were once invited to be  in the jury.

So far, only one Filipino pianist made it in this competition: Iloilo-born Ma. Luis Lopez Vito, who placed fourth in the 1966 edition of the Van Cliburn Competition, with Romania’s sensational Radu Lupu as the First Prize winner.

Two of the top prizewinners, Brazilian Cristina Ortiz and American Steven de Groote, had performed at the CCP to great acclaim.

Born Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr.,  on July 12, 1934,  the pianist entered Juilliard School at 17 and  shared the stage with a Filipino pianist—Ernestina Crisologo—during the summer recital of 1949. Like  Licad, Cliburn was also recipient of the Leventritt award, along with  frequent Manila visitor Gary Graffman.

Reflecting on his 1958 musical triumph in a PBS interview, where the topic shifted to Time magazine describing him as the Texan who conquered Russia, Cliburn didn’t consider the event a big deal.

Said he: “If they appreciate what you did—I am so grateful, because the Russians were wonderful to me. They were such great audiences; I cannot begin to tell you. I didn’t conquer anything. As a matter of fact, they conquered my heart.”

By coincidence, Cliburn appeared many years ago in the cartoon “Iron Man,” playing himself in the episode “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination.”


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Bone Cancer , Lifestyle , Music , People , Van Cliburn



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  5. Almost mugged on Chino Roces Avenue
  6. How healing waters accompanied my journey of faith
  7. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  8. ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  9. Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  10. Philippine novelist wins US book award amid cancer and ‘Yolanda’
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  • Group: Bataan cop killed to stop him from exposing colleagues linked to drug ring
  • Chemical Engineer licensure examination
  • Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
  • Palace: Our concern is to ensure MRT runs smoothly
  • Sports

  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
    Marketplace