On October 7, Carnegie Hall opened its 2015-2016 with a concert featuring the New York Philharmonic led by music director Alan Gilbert. The program opened with the world premiere of Vivo, a piece by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg. (The shade of Sibelius, Lindberg’s countryman, must be rejoicing!) This was followed by Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 by Maurice Ravel.
A marvelous program, to be sure. I’ve long loved the Ravel work, a masterpiece of moody evocation. As for the Tchaikovsky, I hadn’t listened to it – really listened to it – for a long time. He’s one of my favorite composers, but in recent years, I’ve been immersed in the symphonies and orchestral suites, worked I can listen to again and again and be thrilled every time.
For those of us of my generation, the Piano Concerto No. 1 will always stir memories of Van Cliburn’s stunning victory at the 1958 International Piano Competition in Moscow. At the height of the Cold War, a gangly Texan brought the trophy home to the U.S. He was given a ticker tape parade down Broadway, the only classical musician ever to be so honored.
RCA Victor signed him to an exclusive contract, and his subsequent recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 became the first classical album to go platinum. It was the best-selling classical album in the world for more than a decade, eventually going triple-platinum. Cliburn won the 1958 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance for this recording. In 2004, this recording was re-mastered from the original studio analogue tapes, and released on a Super Audio CD.
[from the Wikipedia entry]
My parents owned this album, as did many of my friends.
Carnegie Hall is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary. Peter Tchaikovsky himself traveled from Russia to New York City for the opening of the Hall in 1891. Among the works he conducted on that occasion was the Piano Concerto No. 1.
Last Wednesday night, the soloist was Evgeny Kissin. You can judge for yourself how terrific this performance was. I’ve watched it at least four times, and it gives me chills every time. I’ve not been able to get the music out of my head. Intense lyricism and masterful orchestration combine to create a work of transcendent power.
As for Kissin – in the New York Times review, Anthony Tommasini comments:
Mr. Kissin, who turns 44 on Saturday, has been playing Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto since his teens. Yet the hallmark of this performance was the searching curiosity he conveyed throughout. Taking a somewhat spacious tempo in the well-known opening section of the first movement, with its soaring melody and resounding piano chords, Mr. Kissin emphasized its majesty and lyricism. Not surprisingly, this consummate virtuoso effortlessly dispatched the difficulties of the piece — the arm-blurring bursts of octaves, spiraling flights of finger-twisting passagework and more.
“Arm-blurring bursts” indeed – he was a marvel!
I would watch this video sooner rather than later. I’m not sure how long it will be available online in its entirety. If you’re pressed for time, watch the Tchaikovsky, If you’re even more pressed for time, watch the Third and final movement of the concerto.
Follow this link to the video.