It’s widely known that the late gay pianist Van Cliburn’s RCA recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor and the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2 in C Minor from 1962 is the biggest selling classical piano recording ever made — it went Platinum (1 million copies), an almost unheard of feat for a classical record.
Cliburn biographer Howard Reich says it holds up and that Cliburn “plays a swift, dashing and youthful performance, direct in its expression, uninhibited in its lyric warmth and, quite often emotionally impulsive.”
But what many may not realize is that it’s now possible to hear a live recording of Cliburn’s actual performance at the finale of the Tchaikovsky competition from Moscow.
In 2008, Testament released “Van Cliburn: Final of the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition.” In addition to the monumental Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov concertos, it also features a “Rondo” from composer/competition judge Dimitry Kabalevsky that is not included on any of Cliburn’s studio recordings.
Though not available on iTunes, it can be ordered from testament.co.uk.
Critic David Patrick Stearns says the recording is an insightful portrait of the young artist in action.
“There was a reason he won,” he says.