Friday, April 15, 2011

Close encounters with Van Cliburn

This morning I have a million things to do so I sit down with my coffee and get set to get started when ...

Work Avoidance 101: How is the concert pianist Stephen Hough doing these days?

Stephen H. keeps this Web log on the Telegraph -- you can find it at right, among my links -- that I love checking into now and then. So I check into his Web log. I am flipping around it, here and there, when I find this ancient thing he wrote on this little film clip of Van Cliburn returning from Moscow where he just won the Tchaikovsky Competition.

Wow, there is so much on YouTube, you know? And new things are appearing every day. You can peek at home movies of Rachmaninoff and Richard Tauber. You can watch cellist Lynn Harrell playing in his rec room. You can watch clips of Chico Marx playing the piano in movies. And these are just a few of the things I have chanced to discover as I wander through life wasting time and avoiding work.

Stephen Hough was charmed by the Van Cliburn clip and so am I.

If you get down in the comments on his Web log, which naturally I did -- I mean, what else do I have to do, you know? -- he mentions having had dinner with Cliburn at Tanglewood and what a charming and humble man he is. Having had my own encounters with Cliburn, I second that.

I would go as far as to say Cliburn is almost otherworldly. It is as if when it comes to privacy he has totally given up. He has come to recognize that he is public property. He is like Niagara Falls, is what I remember thinking. That little video shows the start of that. Practically his whole life, he has been noticed.

When I was down in Texas competing in his amateur pianist competition, he did not hide out, he got right in there among us. I was at his house twice. At his house you were free to wander around, look at whatever you wanted, he did not care. He was there smiling at you, ready to talk. He is kind of saintly and you find yourself feeling protective of him. Well, I did.

A couple of years ago there was this big deal about we were going to send the New York Philharmonic to North Korea, I think it was. The papers were saying that these musical ambassadors would do what Van Cliburn did years ago in Russia, that it would break down walls.

My husband, Howard, said what I am sure a lot of people were thinking.

He said, "Why don't we just send Van Cliburn?"

We should have!

Who can resist him?

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