Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Edward MacDowell; Robert Schumann - Piano Concertos (Van Cliburn)


Composer: Edward MacDowell; Robert Schumann
  1. Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54: I. Allegro affettuoso
  2. Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54: II. Intermezzo. Andantino grazioso -
  3. Schumann - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54: III. Allegro vivace
  4. MacDowell - Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor: I. Larghetto calmato
  5. MacDowell - Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor: II. Presto giocoso
  6. MacDowell - Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor: III. Largo - Molto allegro
  7. MacDowell - Woodland Sketches, Op. 51: 1. To a Wild Rose

Van Cliburn, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor (1-3)
Walter Hendl, conductor (4-6)

Dates: 1960 (1-6), 1972 (7)
Label: RCA



We're told that it was with MacDowell's Second Piano Concerto in D minor that Van Cliburn made his first professional appearance with an orchestra at the age of 18, some six years before ''vaulting to fame'' as winner of Moscow's first Tchaikovsky Contest in 1958. This recording was made just two years after that when he was still only 26—albeit already two years older than the precociously gifted composer himself at the time of the concerto's composition. Yes, I agree with Roger Fiske (in his review of the catalogue's only other version from Donna Amato and the LPO on Olympia/Complete Record Co, 6/87) that the work lacks an immediately recognizable face of its own. But in its bold scoring and bravura writing for the soloist, it is scarcely less arresting than any of its big romantic rivals—or so it seems in this exhilarating performance. How very good to have it on CD at last and to be reminded of the young Van Cliburn's legendary wrists, fingers and blazing inner fire. For the familiar little ''To a Wild Rose'' he finds a touching simplicity.

The Schumann Concerto was recorded just six months before the MacDowell, with Reiner instead of Hendl as conductor. Here again it's Van Cliburn's exceptional youthful ardour and elan that immediately strike home. The first movement is brought to an unusually brilliant end. But neither here nor in the finale does virtuosity take precedence: always the music speaks. Only the Intermezzo seems to need tenderness of a slightly more intimately feminine kind. The orchestral contribution is splendid throughout, and full marks go to the RCA engineers for their digital remastering.'

-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone


Edward MacDowell (December 18, 1860 – January 23, 1908) was an American composer and pianist of the Romantic period. He was best known for his second piano concerto and his piano suites Woodland Sketches, Sea Pieces and New England Idylls. After his death, MacDowell was considered as a great, internationally known American composer. However, as the twentieth century progressed, his fame was eclipsed by such American composers as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Roy Harris.


Van Cliburn (July 12, 1934 – February 27, 2013) was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958, at the age of 23, when he won the inaugural quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competitionin Moscow at the height of the Cold War. He had a grand Romantic, expressive style of playing with golden rich, round tone and a singing voice-like phrasing, having been taught from the start to sing each piece. Van Cliburn toured domestically and overseas. He played for royalty, heads of state, and every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.


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