P1269. VAN CLIBURN, w.Previn Cond. NYPO: Piano Concerto in a (Grieg), Live Performance, 29 Jan., 1976, Carnegie Hall; w.Martinon Cond. Chicago Orch.: Piano Concerto #1 in d (Brahms), Live Performance, 8 Feb., 1968, Orchestra Hall. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-510. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Van Cliburn, the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career, clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition. The feat, in Moscow, was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land. When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York he received a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, the first musician to be so honored, cheered by 100,000 people lining Broadway.
Even before his Moscow victory the Juilliard-trained Mr. Cliburn was a notable up-and-coming pianist. He won the Leventritt Foundation award in 1954, which earned him debuts with five major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. For that performance, at Carnegie Hall in November 1954, he performed the work that would become his signature piece, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, garnering enthusiastic reviews and a contract with Columbia Artists.
The impact of Mr. Cliburn’s victory was enhanced by a series of vivid articles written for THE NEW YORK TIMES by Max Frankel, then a foreign correspondent based in Moscow and later an executive editor of the paper. The reports of Mr. Cliburn’s progress - prevailing during the early rounds, making it to the finals and becoming the darling of the Russian people, who embraced him in the streets and flooded him with fan mail and flowers - created intense anticipation as he entered the finals.
Mr. Cliburn was a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands had an uncommonly wide span. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested deep musical sensitivity. At its best his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but one leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a juror for the competition, described Mr. Cliburn as a genius - a word, he added, ‘I do not use lightly about performers’.
A $1,000 grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller ‘Aid to Music’ program made the journey to the Soviet Union possible. The contestants’ Moscow expenses were paid by the Soviet government. The Russian people warmed to Mr. Cliburn from the preliminary rounds. There was something endearing about the contrast between his gawky boyishness and his complete absorption while performing. At the piano he bent far back from the keys, staring into space, his head tilted in a kind of pained ecstasy. During rapid-fire passages he would lean in close, almost scowling at his fingers. On the night of the final round, when Mr. Cliburn performed the Tchaikovsky First Concerto, a solo work by Dmitry Kabalevsky (written as a test piece for the competition) and the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, the audience broke into chants of ‘First prize! First prize!’. Emil Gilels, one of the judges, went backstage to embrace him. The jury agreed with the public, and Moscow celebrated. At a Kremlin reception, Mr. Cliburn was bearhugged by Khrushchev. His prize consisted of 25,000 rubles (about $2,500), though he was permitted to take only half of that out of the country. Immediately, concert offers for enormous fees engulfed him.
Mr. Cliburn leaves a lasting if not extensive discography. One recording in particular, his performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto recorded live at Carnegie Hall on the night of his post-Tchaikovsky competition concert, was praised by Mr. Schonberg, the critic, for its technical strength, musical poise, and ‘manly lyricism unmarred by eccentricity’. Mr. Schonberg then added, prophetically, ‘No matter what Cliburn eventually goes on to do this will be one of the great spots of his career; and if for some reason he fails to fulfill his potentialities, he will always have this to look back upon’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Feb., 2013
“In the words of one of his biographers, conductor Jean Martinon's performances ‘were distinguished by a concern for translucent orchestral textures, and sustained by a subtle sense of rhythm and phrasing’. Occasionally, ‘he stressed a poetic inflection at the expense of literal accuracy’.
Martinon's first instrument was the violin; he studied at the Lyons Conservatory (1924-1925), then transferred to the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prize in violin upon his graduation in 1928. He subsequently studied composition, with Albert Roussel, and conducting, with Charles Munch and Roger Desormiere. Until the outbreak of World War II, Martinon was primarily a composer. His early substantial works include a Symphoniette for piano, percussion, and strings (1935); Symphony #1 (1936); Concerto giocoso for violin and orchestra (1937); and a wind quintet (1938). At the start of the war he was drafted into the French army. Taken prisoner in 1940, he passed the next two years in a Nazi labor camp. There, he wrote’ Stalag IX’ (Musique d'exil), an orchestral piece incorporating elements of jazz; during his internment, he also composed several religious works, including ’Absolve’, ‘Domine’ for male chorus and orchestra, and ‘Psalm 136’ (Chant des captifs), the latter receiving a composition prize from the city of Paris in 1946.
Upon his release from the Nazi camp, Martinon became conductor of the Bordeaux Symphony Orchestra (from 1943 to 1945) and assistant conductor of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra (from 1944 to 1946), then associate conductor of the London Philharmonic (from 1947 to 1949). He toured as a guest conductor as well, although his U.S. debut did not come until 1957, with the Boston Symphony giving the American premiere of his Symphony #2. Although he devoted as much time as he could to composing in the early postwar years -- producing a string quartet (1946), an ‘Irish’ Symphony (1948), the ballet ‘Ambohimang’a (1946), and the opera HÉCUBE (1949-1954) -- he was increasingly occupied with conducting, working with the Concerts Lamoureux (from 1951 to 1957), the Israel Philharmonic (from 1957 to 1959), and Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestra (from 1960 to 1966). Martinon resumed his career as a composer around 1960, writing his Violin Concerto #2 (1960) for Henryk Szeryng, his Cello Concerto (1964) for Pierre Fournier, and his Symphony #4 (‘Altitudes’), composed in 1965, for the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony. He acknowledged Prokofiev and Bartók as strong influences on his scores, which meld Expressionism with French Neoclassicism. Martinon continued composing into the 1970s, but he seldom recorded any of his own music, with the notable exceptions of the Second Symphony, ‘Hymne la vie’ (ORTF, for Barclay Inedits) and Fourth Symphony, ‘Altitudes"’ (Chicago SO, for RCA).
In 1963, he succeeded Fritz Reiner as head of the Chicago Symphony. Martinon's tenure there was difficult. In five seasons, he conducted 60 works by modern European and American composers, and made a number of outstanding LPs for RCA, mostly of bracing twentieth century repertory in audiophile sound. Chicago's conservative music lovers soon sent him packing.
Martinon jumped at the chance to take over the French National Radio Orchestra in 1968; working with this ensemble, he recorded almost the entire standard French repertory for Erato and EMI. His earlier Erato efforts that focused on such secondary but nevertheless interesting figures as Roussel, Pierne, and Dukas, whereas EMI assigned him integral sets of the Saint-Saens symphonies and the orchestral works of Debussy and Ravel, among other projects. In 1974, he was appointed principal conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, but he died before that relationship could bear much fruit.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com