Day 57 – Van Cliburn: Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2 (CD 57)

Another repeat performance, with the one major difference being a different pianist this time: Van Cliburn performs on Day 57 instead of Arthur Rubinstein playing on Day 14.

Either way, I think of Eric Carmen’s 1975 hit “All By Myself” whenever I hear Movement II (“Adagio sostenuto”).

So what am I supposed to be thinking about with this repeat concerto? Why did they record Rachmoninoff’s Concerto No. 2 again?

The lengthy essay on the back of the album (written by John Rosenfield, music critic for the Dallas Morning News) makes no mention – as far as I can see – of the performance by Arthur Rubinstein, recorded for RCA Victor on January 9, 1956. It does, however, state,

There are two performers, though, who meet the requirements of both the scene and the music. One is non other than Van Cliburn, the tall Texan, who has the spirit, digital vitality and yet an emotional maturity. The other is the incomparable Fritz Reiner, who is an unexcelled podium stylist. Theirs is not just a partnership of best-selling names but a matching of something more subtle – the Romantic mind and spirit.

I wonder what one has to do to be considered a “Texan”? Van Cluburn was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved to Texas when he was six. I’m just saying.

The best part of the performance this morning is where I’m listening to it.

I decided not to visit my usual listening post with the Asiago bagels (toasted twice!) and Light Roast coffee. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

So here I am this morning, my bookcase mug filled with a Breakfast Blend with a hint of chocolate flavoring, enjoying the 63 degrees under now-sunny skies (I took that photo at 7:06, twenty-seven minutes after the sun rose at 6:39), and listening to Van Cliburn do what Rubinstein did a few years earlier.

This was recorded on March 31 and April 2, 1962. Van Cliburn was 28 years old. Maestro Reiner was in his 74th year of life.

The Subjective Stuff

Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD booklet notes: 2
CD “album cover” information: 3
How does this make me feel: 3.5

I can’t really tell much difference between this performance and the one with Arthur Rubinstein on piano.

The piano sounds good in both. The orchestra sounds a little mid-rangy and not distinctive, in both.

There is a difference in running time, however.


Movement I: 10:17
Movement II: 11:53
Movement III: 11:03

Van Cliburn

Movement I: 10:56
Movement II: 11:27
Movement III: 11:45

As you can see, the first and third movements are longer in the Van Cliburn version. Movement II is slightly shorter in the Van Cliburn version.

I’m not sure why that is. Tempi? Was Rubinstein slightly brisker with his rendition? Or did Maestro Reiner pick up the pace for Rubinstein, but stretch it out slightly for Van Cliburn?

I doubt I’ll ever know. And I don’t want to spend any additional time researching the matter.

Not when I can watch my cat freak out over the reflection on the wall, caused by something I can’t seem to locate.

Ultimately, the question becomes: Would I listen to this particular recording again?

Answer: No. It’s not really all that remarkable, despite the world-class talent powering it.

I’d probably listen to the Rubinstein version again, though. I have nothing against Van Cliburn. It’s just that I’ve always enjoyed Arthur Rubinstein’s performances and tend to prefer them over those of others in side-by-side comparisons.

On a lark, my wife happened to step outside and take a picture of myself, hard at work, on today’s blog entry.

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