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A Russian pianist on the late Van Cliburn

Denis Matsuev, who won the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998 at 23, the same age as Van Cliburn, has posted the following tribute to the great pianist on his Facebook page and authorised us to reprint it on Slipped Disc: 

denis matsuev

Важно и то, что Ван Клиберн был последователем именно русской фортепианной школы. Он закончил Джуллиард у знаменитой Розины Левиной, выпускницы Московской консерватории. Ему в последствии был вручён диплом Московской консерватории и это, безусловно, знак признания, потому что русская пианистическая школа чувствуется в его игре: искусство петь на фортепиано и совершенно удивительный романтический стиль исполнения, который покорил слушателей Советского Союза. В него были влюблены все, и эта любовь была взаимной. Он обожал Советский Союз, Россию, русскую публику. Он был абсолютно вне политики, на первом плане всегда было его искусство.
Очень тяжело, когда приходится говорить в прошедшем времени о таком человеке. Я помню свои личные впечатления от встречи с ним, нас много сравнивали чисто визуально даже, когда я победил на конкурсе Чайковского. Это был бесконечно трогательный, чуткий, добрый и отзывчивый человек, который посвятил всю свою жизнь служению искусству и доказал своим примером, что у таланта нет национальности, что есть исполнители, которых любят все во всем мире.
Это тяжелая утрата. Ушла настоящая легенда. Легенд такого, как он, уровня ныне живущих осталось мало, их можно сосчитать на одной руке. Вечная память…
van cliburn
The famous American pianist Van Cliburn has died. He personified a whole epoch of piano art, winning the Tchaikovsky competition in 1958. The victory was a truly landmark event – an American pianist won the first contest of P. I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Soviet Moscow. It really was a breakthrough in all respects, including politics, but politics in this case were relegated to second place because his playing was just so brilliant.
It is important that Van Cliburn was a follower of the Russian piano school. He graduated from the famous Julliard teacher Rosina Lhévinne, herself a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory. He subsequently was awarded the diploma of the Moscow Conservatory and it’s certainly a sign of recognition, because Russian pianist school is felt in his playing: the art of singing at the piano and an absolutely amazing romantic style of execution that captivated audiences in the Soviet Union. All were in love, and the love was mutual. He adored the Soviet Union, Russia, the Russian audience. He was absolutely out of politics, has always been at the forefront of his art.
Very hard to speak in the past tense about such person. I remember my personal impressions from meeting him, we compared the purely visual aspects of winning the Tchaikovsky competition. This was an infinitely touching, sensitive, kind and helpful person who dedicated his entire life to the service of art and proved by his example that talent has no nationality, that there are artists all around the world. Such a bereavement. A true legend. Legends such as he, you can count them on one hand. Eternal memory …
Van Cliburn (1)
(recent DVD release)
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  1. Oleg Sherstiucoff says:

    My first thought was that now It is neither place nor time, nevertheless, Mr.Denis Matsuev should start speak only for yourself
    “They all loved him, and it was a mutual love. He adored the USSR, Russia, and the Russian public. ”

    They who? Soviet Union was first of all totalitarian state ruled by Bolshevist political cult where its establishment was proud of blunt disregard for basic civil liberties and total lack of any rights for SU population- it was hideously monstrous country. indeed.
    The reason why “modern” motherrussia is so adored by her subjects lies in “the quality of life” in sowyetsky soyuz

  2. Andrew Sabak says:

    Thanks to Norman Lebrecht for this blog, which my wife, a professional musician and professor of music, reads daily. I myself translate professionally and wish to make a couple of comments. The first translation (whether supplied by the Russian press or done by NL) carries the original flavor even if paraphrased and missing a few things when done quickly as a service to the news. I agree with the first one on some terminology such as using “infinitely touching, sensitive, kind, and helpful” vs the other “outstandingly touching …” where I would say “endlessly …” for “beskonechno”.

    I agree with the second one on a couple of points of accuracy such as “we compared” vs “we were compared” and “there are performers who are loved by everyone”.

    The main comment I wish to address, however, is that in current Russian society everyone would immediately understand the meaning of “Vechnaya pamyat” with which Matsuyev concludes his comments here. This is a brief prayer in the Russian Orthodox Church, literally and accurately meaning “Eternal Memory” as Lebrecht has it, and not the alternative paraphase.

    This is in fact symbolically and deliberately used by Matsuyev as a prayer to God that the soul of Van Cliburn be held by God in His eternal memory. Whether or not people remember a specific person in our world is not at issue. Eternity is not just “a real long time” but is “transcending time” as God sees it. So when Matsuyev ends with this prayer, he is carrying forward the symbolic acceptance of Van Cliburn as truly “one of us” just as did the Moscow Conservatory in worldly honors. What better way to do so, than to ask God to care eternally for our friend now departed?

  3. удивительный = surprisingly ??

    I think “amazing” is better here (только по-моему)…

  4. Нет, Robert Hairgrove, не только по-Вашему – “absolutely amazing” is definitely much more precise there than “completely surprising”. But the rest of RT’s translation is pretty good and is indeed closer to the Russian original than the one that was provided by NL.

  5. That’s not what Matsuev thinks. He likes it and asked permission to post it on his website.

  6. <>

    On closer examination, it appears that the Russian original for the first paragraph of the English translation is missing entirely. The second paragraph (in English) begins with this sentence: “It is important that Van Cliburn was a follower of the Russian piano school.” which is the equivalent of the Russian sentence quoted above (the first one of the first paragraph).

  7. It is not for me to judge the extent of your sinning, RT, but the text in question is better translated as “amazing” than “surprising”. The rest of your translation however is quite good, and if Denis Matsuev likes the one provided by NL better, that only confirms that his English is even worse than mine. His Russian, on the other hand, is good enough for him to know that if he wanted to express surprise rather than amazement he would have to have written “на удивление” or something of that nature.

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