Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, June 7, 1959, this previously unpublished recital captures Van Cliburn in his youthful prime and showcases the pianist's innate Romanticism, natural virtuosity, and formidable communicative gifts at their arguable peak. Cliburn's flexible tempos, superbly focused finger-work, and singing tone collectively cast more three-dimensional light upon the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas than in his later, relatively cautious studio versions. Similar observations hold true for the Chopin selections, where vocally-oriented articulation informs even the fastest, most elaborate ornamentation and filigree.
While Cliburn imbues Prokofiev's Sixth sonata with a wider range of tone color and more expressiveRead more leeway than in the studio, I still prefer Richter's steadier basic pulse in the third movement and his leaner, more incisive Finale. I have no quibbles, however, regarding the controlled bravura and stylish flair Cliburn brings to one of the best performances of Liszt's Twelfth Hungarian Rhapsody ever captured by a recording device. No doubt about it, the young Cliburn was a contender.