Friday, 28 February 2014


On 27 February 2013, the world lost one of its great statesmen of music with the death of American superstar pianist Van Cliburn (1934-2014). He was the first winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 1958, when the world was embroiled in an arms race between the Soviet Union and the Western world which we now know as the Cold War. He brought peoples and cultures together in peace and friendship through the common bond of music. 

In 1962, the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was organised in the Texas city of Fort Worth, where Cliburn and his family resided. Since then, it has become the world's most publicised international piano competition and the one with the highest profile. In memory of Van the Man, a free piano recital lasting almost 4 hours was held on Thursday evening 27 February 2014 in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, just a stone's throw from Bass Performance Hall, where the competition has its home. Eight pianists associated with the competition, all award winners, performed a selection of great piano works.  

The audience stood to attention when Jose Feghali
(1st prize, 1985) played The Star Spangled Banner,
the US national anthem,
which Van used to open all his recitals with.

Yakov Kasman (2nd Prize, 1997) performed
Rachmaninoff's Second Sonata, in the 1913 version
which Van Cliburn favoured.

Simone Pedroni (1st Prize, 1993) unusually programmed
John Williams' Suite from the movie Lincoln

(another great American),
and followed with Liszt's Funerailles.

The youngest pianist of all, Steven Lin (Jury Discretionary
Award, 2013), looking a bit like Lang Lang here,
offered the Minuet and Clair de lune (Suite Bergamasque)
by Debussy and Mendelssohn's Fantasy Op.28.
Maxim Philippov (2nd Prize, 2001) played
Schumann's First Sonata Op.11.

Alexey Koltakov (Finalist, 2001) in Liszt's Dante Sonata.

Jose Feghali appeared a second time, now with
Schumann's K
inderszenen  and the
Bach-Hess Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.

Antonio Pompa-Baldi (2nd Prize, 2001) spoke about how he 
"lied" to Van Cliburn, and performed Liszt's Second Ballade,
Poulenc's Paths of Love and Liszt's Ernani Fantasy.

Alexander Kobrin (1st Prize, 2005) finished off with
selections from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons.

Kobrin was joined by Philippov
in a 4-hand version of Moscow Nights.

Moscow Nights was famously performed by
Van Cliburn in Moscow, thus sealing the friendship
between Americans and Russians.

All the pianists line up for a final bow.

The empty stage.
The world's a sadder place with the passing of Van Cliburn.
May he rest in peace.

All photos taken from the screen (

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