Anniversary of Van Cliburn’s Death!

cdcovers/tchaikovsky/concerto no 1 van cliburn.jpg

Van Cliburn was just a pianist much the way Neil Armstrong was merely an astronaut. Simply put, the tall Texan’s musical talent and successes were out of this world.

Cliburn, who died Wednesday February 27, 2013 at age 78 at his Fort Worth home due to complications from bone cancer, was 23 when he strode into Moscow for the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition, created to showcase Soviet cultural superiority.

Playing with unerring precision and sublime emotion, he took the top prize and was given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, the first and last time a pianist won such an honor.

“Imagine galvanizing the attention of the entire world in the pre-Internet, pre-global TV year of 1958,” says Howard Reich, who got to know the Texas-based pianist while researching his 1993 biography, Van Cliburn. “As a Texan, he was so emblematic of the United States. But the Russians fell in love with his romanticism.”

In many ways, however, that seminal performance both made his name and sealed his fate.

The pieces that won him the competition — Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 — sold countless records (his Tchaikovsky No. 1 was the first classical record to sell more than a million copies) and became required concert staples.

“Playing on that treadmill for the next 20 years led him to burn out, and by 1978 he looked terrible and bowed out of public life,” says Reich. “He was a gentle soul, and that harsh public spotlight had a negative effect on him.”

It would be nine years before Cliburn performed again, at the White House for Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Although he made occasional appearances in the following decades, he spent most of his time overseeing his foundation and a quadrennial competition that bears his name.

“I can’t think of anyone who has done more to help promote the instrument and young performers than Van,” says Cliburn’s friend Yoheved Kaplinsky, chairman of the piano department at New York’s Juilliard School of Music, which Cliburn attended. “He was an icon in Fort Worth, and a person of great humility.”

Born Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. in Shreveport, La., Cliburn started piano lessons at age 3 and immediately showed prowess under the watchful eye of his mother, who had trained on the instrument under a teacher who had studied with Franz Liszt.

After moving to Texas, Cliburn played with Houston’s symphony at age 12, and at 17 entered Juilliard. At 20, he performed with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, setting the stage for his triumphant coup in Russia.

No one can imagine a ticker-tape parade for a pianist in this era, but in Cliburn’s heyday he was as much an inevitable cultural icon as he was a reluctant political figure. In the late ’50s, the Cold War was raging, the Beatles were still practicing and classical music still held sway.

But what truly made Cliburn unique was the humble ease with which he went about seducing the alleged enemy.

“Van marched in full of the musical values of the Old World, full of tremendous sincerity and with a remarkable ability to connect with audiences,” says Kaplinsky. “He may have transcended the boundaries of the art world and breached into the political world, but foremost Van was a consummate artist.”

That artistry is on display in various YouTube clips of Cliburn reprising his competition-winning form in Moscow in 1962. The pianist’s eyes are often closed as massive hands fly across the length of the keyboard. Utterly lost in the music, Cliburn seems almost oblivious to his audience.

“He had more of everything,” says Reich. “More height, more smiles, more sweep on the piano.”

In his later years, Cliburn collected the usual array of awards accorded cultural heroes. A Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2001, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and in 2004 Russia’s equivalent, the Russian Order of Friendship. In 2004, there was a predictable Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1994 a less-expected guest appearance as himself in the TV cartoon Iron Man.

On the personal front, Cliburn was a devout Baptist but also quietly gay; in the late ’90s, his longtime partner, Thomas Zaremba, unsuccessfully sued the pianist over compensation claims.

Ultimately, Cliburn will be remembered not just as a performer of startling skill, but also as a global cultural sensation in the age of shortwave radio.

“He did something that no one could have ever imagined back then,” says Reich. “He was ubiquitous.”

Adapted from USA Today

Happy Birthday, Gene Krupa

krupa

 

Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa lived from January 15, 1909 to October 16, 1973.  He was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.

One of my all-time favorite non-piano songs is Sing Sing Sing. Krupa joined Benny Goodman’s band in 1934, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His tom-tom interludes on their hit “Sing, Sing, Sing” were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially.

The Benny Goodman big band playing Sing Sing Sing, featuring Gene Krupa at the end. We get the added benefit of hearing Mr. Harry James play a trumpet solo.

~~~

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich: Famous Drum Battle

Fall LIstening and Coloring Pages

 

I have purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.

Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook.  After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.

After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.

If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I’ll print you a set.

From the website:

The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.

This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.

Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.

My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.

The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:

  • Totentanz by Liszt
  • Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
  • Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
  • Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
  • Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
  • Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
  • Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
  • Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
  • The Banshee by Henry Cowell
  • Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlist to listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).

 

Van Cliburn, American Classical Pianist

cdcovers/tchaikovsky/concerto no 1 van cliburn.jpg

Van Cliburn was just a pianist much the way Neil Armstrong was merely an astronaut. Simply put, the tall Texan’s musical talent and successes were out of this world.

Cliburn, who died Wednesday February 27, 2013 at age 78 at his Fort Worth home due to complications from bone cancer, was 23 when he strode into Moscow for the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition, created to showcase Soviet cultural superiority.

Playing with unerring precision and sublime emotion, he took the top prize and was given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, the first and last time a pianist won such an honor.

“Imagine galvanizing the attention of the entire world in the pre-Internet, pre-global TV year of 1958,” says Howard Reich, who got to know the Texas-based pianist while researching his 1993 biography, Van Cliburn. “As a Texan, he was so emblematic of the United States. But the Russians fell in love with his romanticism.”

In many ways, however, that seminal performance both made his name and sealed his fate.

The pieces that won him the competition — Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 — sold countless records (his Tchaikovsky No. 1 was the first classical record to sell more than a million copies) and became required concert staples.

“Playing on that treadmill for the next 20 years led him to burn out, and by 1978 he looked terrible and bowed out of public life,” says Reich. “He was a gentle soul, and that harsh public spotlight had a negative effect on him.”

It would be nine years before Cliburn performed again, at the White House for Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Although he made occasional appearances in the following decades, he spent most of his time overseeing his foundation and a quadrennial competition that bears his name.

“I can’t think of anyone who has done more to help promote the instrument and young performers than Van,” says Cliburn’s friend Yoheved Kaplinsky, chairman of the piano department at New York’s Juilliard School of Music, which Cliburn attended. “He was an icon in Fort Worth, and a person of great humility.”

Born Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. in Shreveport, La., Cliburn started piano lessons at age 3 and immediately showed prowess under the watchful eye of his mother, who had trained on the instrument under a teacher who had studied with Franz Liszt.

After moving to Texas, Cliburn played with Houston’s symphony at age 12, and at 17 entered Juilliard. At 20, he performed with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, setting the stage for his triumphant coup in Russia.

No one can imagine a ticker-tape parade for a pianist in this era, but in Cliburn’s heyday he was as much an inevitable cultural icon as he was a reluctant political figure. In the late ’50s, the Cold War was raging, the Beatles were still practicing and classical music still held sway.

But what truly made Cliburn unique was the humble ease with which he went about seducing the alleged enemy.

“Van marched in full of the musical values of the Old World, full of tremendous sincerity and with a remarkable ability to connect with audiences,” says Kaplinsky. “He may have transcended the boundaries of the art world and breached into the political world, but foremost Van was a consummate artist.”

That artistry is on display in various YouTube clips of Cliburn reprising his competition-winning form in Moscow in 1962. The pianist’s eyes are often closed as massive hands fly across the length of the keyboard. Utterly lost in the music, Cliburn seems almost oblivious to his audience.

“He had more of everything,” says Reich. “More height, more smiles, more sweep on the piano.”

In his later years, Cliburn collected the usual array of awards accorded cultural heroes. A Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2001, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and in 2004 Russia’s equivalent, the Russian Order of Friendship. In 2004, there was a predictable Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1994 a less-expected guest appearance as himself in the TV cartoon Iron Man.

On the personal front, Cliburn was a devout Baptist but also quietly gay; in the late ’90s, his longtime partner, Thomas Zaremba, unsuccessfully sued the pianist over compensation claims.

Ultimately, Cliburn will be remembered not just as a performer of startling skill, but also as a global cultural sensation in the age of shortwave radio.

“He did something that no one could have ever imagined back then,” says Reich. “He was ubiquitous.”

Adapted from USA Today

New for Fall: LIstening and Coloring Pages

 

I have just purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.

Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook.  After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.

After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.

If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I’ll print you a set.

From the website:

The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.

This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.

Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.

My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.

The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:

  • Totentanz by Liszt
  • Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
  • Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
  • Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
  • Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
  • Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
  • Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
  • Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
  • The Banshee by Henry Cowell
  • Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlist to listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).

 

Van Cliburn, American classical pianist

cdcovers/tchaikovsky/concerto no 1 van cliburn.jpg

Van Cliburn was just a pianist much the way Neil Armstrong was merely an astronaut. Simply put, the tall Texan’s musical talent and successes were out of this world.

Cliburn, who died Wednesday February 27, 2013 at age 78 at his Fort Worth home due to complications from bone cancer, was 23 when he strode into Moscow for the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition, created to showcase Soviet cultural superiority.

Playing with unerring precision and sublime emotion, he took the top prize and was given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, the first and last time a pianist won such an honor.

“Imagine galvanizing the attention of the entire world in the pre-Internet, pre-global TV year of 1958,” says Howard Reich, who got to know the Texas-based pianist while researching his 1993 biography, Van Cliburn. “As a Texan, he was so emblematic of the United States. But the Russians fell in love with his romanticism.”

In many ways, however, that seminal performance both made his name and sealed his fate.

The pieces that won him the competition — Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 — sold countless records (his Tchaikovsky No. 1 was the first classical record to sell more than a million copies) and became required concert staples.

“Playing on that treadmill for the next 20 years led him to burn out, and by 1978 he looked terrible and bowed out of public life,” says Reich. “He was a gentle soul, and that harsh public spotlight had a negative effect on him.”

It would be nine years before Cliburn performed again, at the White House for Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev. Although he made occasional appearances in the following decades, he spent most of his time overseeing his foundation and a quadrennial competition that bears his name.

“I can’t think of anyone who has done more to help promote the instrument and young performers than Van,” says Cliburn’s friend Yoheved Kaplinsky, chairman of the piano department at New York’s Juilliard School of Music, which Cliburn attended. “He was an icon in Fort Worth, and a person of great humility.”

Born Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. in Shreveport, La., Cliburn started piano lessons at age 3 and immediately showed prowess under the watchful eye of his mother, who had trained on the instrument under a teacher who had studied with Franz Liszt.

After moving to Texas, Cliburn played with Houston’s symphony at age 12, and at 17 entered Juilliard. At 20, he performed with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, setting the stage for his triumphant coup in Russia.

No one can imagine a ticker-tape parade for a pianist in this era, but in Cliburn’s heyday he was as much an inevitable cultural icon as he was a reluctant political figure. In the late ’50s, the Cold War was raging, the Beatles were still practicing and classical music still held sway.

But what truly made Cliburn unique was the humble ease with which he went about seducing the alleged enemy.

“Van marched in full of the musical values of the Old World, full of tremendous sincerity and with a remarkable ability to connect with audiences,” says Kaplinsky. “He may have transcended the boundaries of the art world and breached into the political world, but foremost Van was a consummate artist.”

That artistry is on display in various YouTube clips of Cliburn reprising his competition-winning form in Moscow in 1962. The pianist’s eyes are often closed as massive hands fly across the length of the keyboard. Utterly lost in the music, Cliburn seems almost oblivious to his audience.

“He had more of everything,” says Reich. “More height, more smiles, more sweep on the piano.”

In his later years, Cliburn collected the usual array of awards accorded cultural heroes. A Kennedy Center Honors tribute in 2001, a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, and in 2004 Russia’s equivalent, the Russian Order of Friendship. In 2004, there was a predictable Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1994 a less-expected guest appearance as himself in the TV cartoon Iron Man.

On the personal front, Cliburn was a devout Baptist but also quietly gay; in the late ’90s, his longtime partner, Thomas Zaremba, unsuccessfully sued the pianist over compensation claims.

Ultimately, Cliburn will be remembered not just as a performer of startling skill, but also as a global cultural sensation in the age of shortwave radio.

“He did something that no one could have ever imagined back then,” says Reich. “He was ubiquitous.”

Adapted from USA Today

Gene Krupa, Born January 15, 1909

krupa

 

Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa lived from January 15, 1909 to October 16, 1973.  He was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.

One of my all-time favorite non-piano songs is Sing Sing Sing. Krupa joined Benny Goodman’s band in 1934, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His tom-tom interludes on their hit “Sing, Sing, Sing” were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially.

The Benny Goodman big band playing Sing Sing Sing, featuring Gene Krupa at the end. We get the added benefit of hearing Mr. Harry James play a trumpet solo.

~~~

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich: Famous Drum Battle