The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Van Cliburn biopic is in the works with young star Ansel Elgort to play the late, great American pianist. Plus, Madison maestro John DeMain remembers opera maestro Julius Rudel.

July 6, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear sees that something for both the ears and the eyes is coming down the pike.

Hollywood sources have confirmed that a biographical film –- yes, a biopic -– about the American pianist Van Cliburn (below) , who died last year at 78 of bone cancer, is in the works.

Cliburn's hands

That is as it should be, despite what some classical musicians see as shortcomings in Cliburn’s artistry.

Here is a post The Ear did before about the opinions that members of the public and musicians have concerning Cliburn:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/classical-music-how-good-was-pianist-van-cliburn/

van cliburn ill

Cliburn was the first classical artist to make a million-selling record -– he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 — on the RCA label (below and at the bottom). It was the same work with which, at age 23, he unexpectedly won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.

His victory during the height of The Cold War was an event that led to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City (bel0w) and a meteoric career, then to premature burn-out and an early retirement from the concert stage. (You can see an archival historic footage at the bottom in a YouTube video. Complete performances by Van Cliburn of the same concerto are also on YouTube.)

Van Cliburn ticker tape parade in 1958

And, if The Ear recalls correctly, Van Cliburn became a phenom or superstar who sold out houses, and was the first classical artist to get paid a fee of $10,000 for a one-night performance.

Cliburn Tchaikovsky LP

Not many classical musicians have the stuff to become the subject of a biopic.

Some composers, especially Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin, have lent themselves to such a treatment, several times in the latter case. (We will overlook the case of the mentally ill performer David Helfgott in “Shine,” which seemed more a pathology than a biography.)

But The Ear can’t think of another individual performer, although he remembers more general subjects like “The Competition.”

The young actor Ansel Elgort (below), who The Ear thinks resembles the young Cliburn (who resembles fellow Texan Lyle Lovett), has been cast in the leading role, which focuses on Cliburn’s early years and his victory in Moscow. Apparently, Elgort himself also plays the piano quite well -– but my guess is that he does not play well enough to play it the way that the Juilliard School-trained Cliburn did.

But Elgort’s star is on the ascent, given his performance in the much praised and popular current release (“The Fault In Our Stars,” about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.

Ansel Elgort

Anyway here are some links to stories about Van Cliburn, Ansel Elgort and the forthcoming movie:

To CBS News:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ansel-elgort-to-star-in-van-cliburn-biopic/

To the Dallas Morning News, in Cliburn’s hometown:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20140623-ansel-elgort-tapped-to-play-van-cliburn-in-movie.ece

To TIME magazine with a good video accompanying it:

http://time.com/2917530/ansel-elgort-van-cliburn/

To another video with good comparison photos of Cliburn and Elgort:

http://www.hitfix.com/news/ansel-elgort-playing-van-cliburn-in-new-biopic

To Norman Lebrecht’s tweet-like comment on his popular blog Slipped Disc:

http://slippedisc.com/2014/06/ansel-is-picked-to-play-van-cliburn-in-biopic/

What other classical music performers would you like to see treated on a biopic?

I nominate the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a closeted gay man who led a dramatic life including encounters and confrontations with Soviet leaders and his American tour plus his eccentric late-life habits that included touring around Europe in a van playing in schools and old churches and using out-of-tune pianos. And perhaps also the legendary operatic  soprano Maria Callas, who was known for being tempestuous and temperamental as well as supremely gifted in both singing and acting. (There was a Broadway play about her, “Master Class” by Terrence McNally, the same writer who did the “Dead Man Walking,” the opera by Jake Heggie.)

richterwithcross1

Medea Maria Callas

Your nominations?

The Ear wants to hear.

JOHN DeMAIN ON JULIUS RUDEL

And speaking of celebrities, John DeMain (below, in photo by Prasad), the music director and conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the artistic director of the Madison Opera, sent in his remembrance of the late, great opera conductor Julius Rudel, who led the now-defunct City Opera of New York and who died a week ago at 93:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Here is a link to the Rudel posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/classical-music-conductor-julius-rudel-longtime-director-of-the-defunct-new-york-city-opera-has-died-at-93/

And here is John DeMain’s remembrance:

“It was my great honor to be chosen for the Julius Rudel Award at the New York City Opera in 1971. The purpose of the stipend was to allow an American conductor to work closely with Maestro Rudel to learn how to become an artistic director of an opera company.

Rudel (below) was far and away the best conductor in the house. His performances were vital, theatrical, and intensely musically expressive. His “Marriage of Figaro” was an unforgettable experience for me. I prepared the auditions of singers for the company, and got to sit in on the casting conversations, and learned the criterion for casting a singer in an opera.

Julius Rudel at home in 2010 NY Times

Rudel was extremely demanding musically, and, of course, expanded the repertoire of the company in all directions. He had great flair for American opera and musical theater.

The bottom line for me, however, was he delivered totally engrossing performances night after night. He also was a mentor to me, and provided counsel and advice as new career opportunities presented themselves to me.

I consider Julius Rudel’s time at the City Opera as the “golden age” of that company. It was during that time that Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Norman Treigle, Beverly Sills, and many other greats were singing on that stage.

I’m grateful to have had him in my life.

Julius Rudel middle age conducting NPR

 


Classical music: Here are the three winners – Ukrainian, Italian and American — of the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition that concluded Sunday night in Fort Worth, Texas.

June 11, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

We have a winner!

Actually, we have three of them (below in a photo by Tom Fox) – one Ukrainian (first place, center), one Italian (second place, on left) and one American (third place, on right).

van cliburn 14 3 winners CR Tom Fox Beatrice Rana (silver) of Italy; Vadym Kholodenko (gold) of Urkaine; and Sean Chen (bronze) of the U.S

After two weeks of preliminaries, semi-finals and finals, the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, has come to its conclusion. It ended with concertos and the official announcement Sunday night.

It is the first competition, now in its 52nd year, to be held after the death of its namesake, the world-famous pianist Van Cliburn (at bottom, at the first Tchaikovsky Competition, which he won against all odds, in Moscow in 1958) who died in February at 78 of bone cancer.

Here is a previous posting I did about the competition with many other links:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/classical-music-after-the-recent-death-of-van-cliburn-the-14th-van-cliburn-international-piano-competition-is-being-held-may-24-june-9-in-fort-worth-texas-here-are-links-to-many-kinds-of-informati/

Other changes, including bigger prizes, were also made with this competition, which is held every four years. But apparently, it was a fine success on many counts.

2013 Van Cliburn competition 2013

Here are several links to stories that include a variety of background and details:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/06/10/189511177/ukrainian-wins-top-prize-at-van-cliburn-piano-competition

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/10/vadym-kholodenko-ukrainian-pianist-and-cliburn-winner_n_3414712.html?utm_hp_ref=arts

http://www.classical-music.com/news/kholodenko-takes-van-cliburn-glory

cliburn 14 standing ovation for sean chen Tom Fox

And here is a link to the photo portfolio from the competition with a lot of thankful tweets from fans who follow the various rounds of the competition:

http://www.cliburn.org/landing.html

Here is the terrifically designed logo for the competition that turns Van Cliburn’s initials sideways into a piano:

van cliburn 14 cup and logo Tom Fox

And here are some observations by Scott Cantrell, the classical music critic for the Dallas Morning News who clearly dislikes percussive piano playing, about the performances of the three winners plus a photo gallery, with detailed IDs, by staff photographer Tom Fox:

http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/columnists/scott-cantrell/20130609-ukrainian-pianist-vadym-kholodenko-claims-cliburn-competition-s-first-prize.ece

Cliburn's hands


Classical music: After the recent death of its namesake, the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is being held May 24-June 9 in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are links to many kinds of information, including live webcasts of performances, lists of competitors and repertoire, and blogs of the competition rounds. Plus, the Middleton Community Orchestra closes out its season Wednesday night.

May 28, 2013
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A REMINDER: Tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 29) at 7:30 p.m. in the Middle Performing Arts of Middleton High School, the Middleton Community Orchestra (below, performing under conductor Steve Kurr) will wrap up its third season with a performance of  “Romantic Favorites” that include Schumann’s “Julius Caesar” Overture, Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 with UW-Madison student Mark Bridges as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s famous and final Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”). Tickets are $10 for adults, free for students and young people. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. and the doors open at 7 p.m. Here is a link to more information in a post I did late last week that also includes a review of last season’s closer: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/classical-music-the-middleton-community-orchestra-wraps-up-its-third-season-this-wednesday-night-with-tchaikovskys-symphony-no-6-pathetique-schumanns-julius-c/

Middleton Community Orchestra Steve Kurr conducting

By Jacob Stockinger

The 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which takes place every four years, is underway. The playing started last Friday, May 24, and will run through Sunday, June 9.

The competition seems to be facing some challenges, including possible conflicts of interest between teacher-judges and contestants.

But perhaps the biggest challenge is maintaining its high public profile after the death in February at age 78 from bone cancer of its world-famous namesake, the virtuoso pianist Van Cliburn (below, performing in 1993.).

rememberingcliburn

Here is a fine background story about the challenges and problems facing the competition after the death of its namesake in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/arts/music/in-texas-van-cliburn-piano-contest-goes-on-without-him.html?_r=0

And here is a link to a story by famed critic Norman Lebrecht (below) about why there are five Chinese competitors, but none from Britain, Germany or Austria and why all the names are unfamiliar to the general public or even most serious piano-philes:

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/03/five-chinese-no-brits-or-germans-in-van-cliburn-competition-finals.html

norman_lebrecht

Here is a link to the competitors:

http://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition/current-competitors/competitor-details/?ID=543

If you want to see the repertoire list of what all 30 competitors will perform, you have to take a roundabout way.

Go to the Competitors page at the foundation’s home website and click on their name. Then you have a choice of links to Biography and or to Competition Repertoire for each phase. I find the repertoire list valuable and fascinating for its psychology of building up to a win. A lot of the choices make sense, but some seem pretty far out and risky.

There are SEVEN American contestants – almost one-quarter of all the contestants. Check them out:

http://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition/

Here is a link to the performance schedule:

http://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition/performance-schedule/

2013 Van Cliburn competition 2013

Here is a link to the blog on the foundation’s website:

http://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition/competition-blog/

Here is a link to the live webcasts:

http://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition/live-webcast/ (Below is a YouTube video of Claire Huangci performing Kapustin’s Concert Etude, Op. 40, No.1, during the Preliminary Round).

Here is a link to story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/05/23/4880373/todays-competitors.html

And here is a link to the Dallas Morning News, which has both news stories and a daily blog about the compeititon

http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/columnists/scott-cantrell/20130522-your-guide-to-the-cliburn-competition-from-social-media-coverage-to-live-streams.ece

http://artsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/cliburn-competition-day-1-morning-and-afternoon-performances.html/

Both newspapers feature daily blogs of various rounds and contestants with some pretty informed judgments.


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