I grew up in a household that loved classical music. My father was stationed in Germany in the early 70’s (went through Checkpoint Charlie dozens of times, I’m told), and collected quite a few records while there. Some of them remain my favorites to this day. Karajan’s 100th Anniversary recording of Beethoven’s Ninth, for example, or the Schubert and Schumann song cycles rendered by Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Fritz Wunderlich. Wunderlich’s Dichterliebe still melts my heart to this day. Anyway, among those records was his 1958 debut recording of Tchaikovsky’s First and Rachmaninoff’s Second piano concertos. I practically wore out those poor LP’s. I just was so smitten by the sheer sonic richness and romantic phrasing of Cliburn – even though I was maybe only just beginning to study the violin at the time. That sound has stuck with me through the years a lot, and occasionally there is a pianist who approaches that concept (Andre Watts is a prime example), but I’ve yet to find one who has eclipsed Cliburn in sheer beauty of sound.
Did you know it is Tchaikovsky’s birthday today? I didn’t, but when you go to the Google.com homepage, this is what you see: