BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor." TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. CHOPIN: Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49. LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
Van Cliburn, pianist; Moscow Philharmonic Orch/Kiril Kondrashin, cond.
VIDEO ARTISTS INTERNATIONAL DVD 4452 TT: 104 min.
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BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83. GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.
Van Cliburn, pianist; Moscow Philharmonic Orch/Kiril Kondrashin, cond.
VIDEO ARTISTS INTERNATIONAL DVD 4453 TT: 85 min.
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'MADEMOISELLE' Nadia Boulanger - A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
MEDICI ARTS DVD 5DM41 TT: 79 min.
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Video Artists International has released two of three DVDs of exciting live performances by Van Cliburn recorded when the pianist made international headlines by winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition April 14, 1958. Two of these are listed above; the third, devoted to the second and third concertos of Rachmaninoff, will be covered here as soon as it is available. All one has to do is watch these exciting performances to understand why Cliburn took Moscow by storm. He is charismatic to watch, totally assured and is quite a commanding figure as he strides confidently to the piano. Rapport between Kiril Kondrashin and Cliburn is remarkable.Cliburn plays brilliantly and takes chances, which he didn't do much in later performances after returning to the United States. It is a pleasure to watch him playing so boldly, accepting the ovation that followed each performance, and graciously accepting flowers from the crowd that rushed to the stage. Photography is OK, with the camera usually in the right place, and audio adequate if not outstanding. These videos are of historic interest as well. One can see Nikita Krushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in a box seat, seeming to enjoy the proceedings. Cliburn speaks, in Russian, dedicating his first encore, the Chopin Fantasy, to Khruchchev and there is a slight pause: it seems the Russian ruler had already left and had to return to his seat. The Chopin is not a very good choice for an encore, but the dazzling performance of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody surely is, and Cliburn plays it to the hilt. These are very major additions to the DVD catalog - thank you, VAI! And we surely are looking forward to the Rachmaninoff concertos.

Bruno Monsaingeon's sensitive black and white film is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the legendary music figures of the 20th Century. Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was a music professor and a music educator who taught just about all of the major composers and conductors of the time including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, David Diamond, Philip Glass, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Elie Siegmeister, Igor Stravinsky and Virgil Thomson. The film was made in 1977 to commemorate Boulanger's 90th birthday, and includes Leonard Bernstein and Igor Markevitch reminiscing about her and her effect on the musical world. Even at 90, she was incredibly alert and responsive. We also see her in teaching sessions working with young students, and commenting on her friendship with great composers, particularly Stravinsky. This is a major addition to the historic DVD catalog. As a "bonus," this DVD also includes a performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 38 recorded in a 1967 concert with the ORTF Orchestra directed by Markevitch, which has nothing to do with Boulanger except that in the film the conductor made many observations about her.

R.E.B. (July 2008)

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