Today, we watched “Van Cliburn: A Portrait,” a DVD release taken from
his 1966 broadcast performance on the “The Bell Telephone Hour.”
As a bonus, his 1960 performances of the Schumann-Liszt “Widmung,”
and the second movement of the Brahms “Second Piano Concerto” were
This footage was shot when Cliburn was still riding high in popularity, after
his 1958 triumph at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Russia. There is
also footage of his rehearsals with the young musicians at the Interlochen
Music Camp. In this segment, Cliburn plays Prokofiev’s “Third Piano Concerto,” while conducting from the piano. Later, he shown performing Chopin’s “B Minor
Sonata,” in Arizona. Finally, we observe him rehearsing the Rachmaninov
“Second Piano Concerto,” at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Kiril Kondrashin.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such large hands on a pianist. Cliburn’s mother
is present throughout this film, and he provides a very revealing narrative,
making “Van Cliburn: A Portrait,” a priceless DVD selection.