P0674. VAN CLIBURN: Rondo in a (Kabalevsky); w.Kondrashin Cond. Moscow Phil.: Concerto #1 in b-flat (Tchaikovsky); Concerto #3 in d (Rachmaninoff). (England) Testament SBT 1440, Live Performance, 1958, Previously Unpublished. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 749677144029
"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
"Kiril Petrovich Kondrashin was internationally the best-known conductor of the Soviet Union and also the most prominent one to emigrate from that country. He was known for vigorous and solid performances of a wide repertory, particularly the Russian masters.
He entered the Moscow Conservatory in 1934, where he studied conducting with Boris Khaikin. He graduated in 1936, but by then had obtained a job as assistant conductor at the Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater in 1934, debuting with the operetta LES CLOCHES DE CORNEVILLE by Planquette.
In 1936 he was conductor at the Maly Opera Theater in Leningrad, retaining that post until 1943. Along with other artists who were deemed important to the war effort, he was evacuated from besieged Leningrad after the German invasion of Russia. In 1943, he became a member of the conducting staff of the Moscow Bolshoi Theater, which was also in a wartime home outside the capital. He remained with the Bolshoi until 1956, making marked improvement in his interpretation.
Meanwhile, a demand was building for him as a concert conductor. He received Stalin Prizes in 1948 and 1949. When he left the Bolshoi, it was with the intention of centering his career on the podium rather than in the pit. His fame grew greatly in 1958, when he led the orchestra in the prizewinning appearances of American pianist Van Cliburn at the Tchaikovsky International Competition. Cliburn charmed both his home country and his Russian hosts, and the resulting LP record of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, conducted by Kondrashin, was a long-time best seller. This led to his American and British debuts, making Kondrashin the first Soviet conductor to appear in the U.S.
In 1960 he was named artistic director of the Moscow Philharmonic, and as such participated in another piano concerto blockbuster recording with a U.S. piano star, the great Prokofiev Third Concerto recording for Mercury with Byron Janis, still considered by many the greatest interpretation of that brilliant work on disc. Kondrashin's performances were bright and dramatic, tending to programmatic interpretations that commentators saw as the legacy of his theater career. He was the U.S.S.R.'s finest interpreter of Mahler, leading all the symphonies with unusual restraint and with the expressive and dramatic qualities of the music seemingly enhanced by understatement.
He left the Moscow Philharmonic in 1975, turning to guest conducting. As a result of high demand outside the U.S.S.R., he decided to emigrate in 1978. He was named permanent conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 1979, and immediately began making a notable series of recordings with them, but died in that city only two years later."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com